At least one of the 30 crew members of the ‘Arctic Sunrise’ have walked out of the Russian prosecutor’s office with charges dropped in an amnesty, Greenpeace said in a statement.
Greenpeace announced on Tuesday that the Russian authorities had begun to drop the charges set against the activists who were accused of hooliganism after they staged a protest on an Arctic oil rig three months ago.
UK national, Anthony Perrett, became the first of the Arctic 30 to have the criminal case against him officially dropped. He says he is proud of what he did.
“It’s time to go home, it’s time to get back to Wales, and I just got one big step closer. I took peaceful action to defend a fragile region under profound threat, and instead I was seized by armed commandos at sea and spent two months in detention,” he said, in a statement released by Greenpeace.
But the campaign is not over yet, Perrett added.
“The Arctic is melting before our eyes and yet the oil companies are lining up to profit from its destruction. This is why I took action, to expose them and mobilize people to demand Arctic protection.”
The organization said it expected all crew members to be free by the end of the week.
“Each activist comes with a lawyer to the prosecutor’s office who hands out the documents. Today it will be one or two activists, the rest will follow tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,” the protesters’ lawyer, Andrey Suchkov, told the Interfax news agency.
GOOD NEWS: First of the #Arctic30 has had the investigation against him officially dropped. Home is one step closer.
— Arctic Sunrise (@gp_sunrise) December 24, 2013
Ivan Blokov, the head of Greenpeace Russia, said: "There is a good chance that they will be home in time for the New Year".
The Russians authorities have confirmed that the crew members will be apply to apply for Russian transit visas once the charges are dropped.
The move to drop the charges against the Greenpeace activists is part of a new amnesty law that came into effect last week in Russia. Under the new legislation Pussy Riot band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, charged with hooliganism for staging a ‘punk prayer’ in a Russian Orthodox Catherdral, were freed on Monday.
The 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 freelance journalists were arrested by Russian authorities in September after they attempted to scale Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Barents Sea.
The protesters – who are nationals of 18 different countries – were initially taken into custody on charges of piracy which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in jail. The charges were later downgraded to hooliganism which carries a potential sentence of 7 years.
Greenpeace mounted a massive international campaign to free their activists, claiming they had committed no crime and decrying the Russian authorities. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the protesters’ actions endangered the lives of those working on the rig.
“When [somebody] is climbing on the platform [they] are creating an emergency situation, [and] the operator [of the rig] could have made more than one error,” said Putin in November.