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article imageRussia: Arctic 30 Greenpeace activists granted amnesty

By Eileen Kersey     Dec 18, 2013 in Environment
Murmansk - A group of Greenpeace activists were arrested by Russian authorities in late September and initially faced charges of piracy. The charges changed to hooliganism, and eventually some activists were released on bail, but now an amnesty will free them.
Greenpeace has announced that the Russian government agreed Wednesday to amend an amnesty bill which will include the Greenpeace activists, or as they have become known, the Arctic 30.
An email from Esther Freeman, Greenpeace, alerted this Digital Journalist. It read:
I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief, but the Arctic 30 have said they’re not celebrating. They’ve all spent two months in jail for a crime they didn’t commit, and faced criminal charges that were absurd. As Pete Willcox, captain of the Arctic Sunrise, said: “There’s no amnesty for the Arctic.”
By accepting the amnesty they are not admitting guilt, and once they have the necessary exit visas, they should be home with their families. When that will be is still in the hands of the Russian authorities, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Christmas.
It’s been overwhelming watching the huge swell of support for the Arctic 30 over the last three months: 860 protests in 46 countries, and more than 2.6 million people emailing their Russian embassy. This stand of solidarity has been incredibly inspiring.
And I hope it won’t end once they’re home. We must finish what these brave 28 activists and two journalists set out to do, and save the Arctic.
Charges against all 30 Greenpeace activists have been dropped and as the Telegraph reports the amended bill could result in the release of Pussy Riot punk band members, who are serving two years in prison on charges of hooliganism for a protest at Moscow's main cathedral.
The bill is not passed yet but the media are reporting amnesty for the Arctic 30 and predicting others will also be freed. An estimated 2,000 prisoners could be released.
The Greenpeace website carries this announcement:
Legal proceedings against the Arctic 30 can come to a close after the Russian parliament agreed to include them in an amnesty marking the 20th anniversary of the country’s constitution. The Duma voted for an amendment that extends an amnesty decree to defendants who have been charged with hooliganism. They took peaceful action on behalf of us all, standing up against destructive Arctic oil drilling and the onslaught of climate change.
Whether the amnesty is due to the Sochi Olympics, due to be staged in Russia in 2014, or a change of policy is not known.
The bill will be published Thursday, which could mean the Arctic 30 and others will soon be on their way home for Christmas.
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