Greenpeace activists charged with piracy over Russian oil rig protest

A Russian court has formally charged 14 of the 30 Greenpeace activists with piracy. They were arrested in Russia after staging a protest at an Arctic oil rig. The charges that Greenpeace calls "extreme" carry a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in jail. "It is an extreme and disproportionate charge," Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said. "A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest," Naidoo said. The proceedings in a court in the northern city of Murmansk were adjourned on Wednesday evening, but will continue on Thursday. "We believe the charges absolutely unfounded and illegal. Our activists had no motive for taking possession of anyone's property. There was no crime," Greenpeace lawyer Mikhail Kreindlin told Interfax. The prosecution insists Greenpeace activists "posed a real threat" to the personal security of staff and property at the Prirazlomnaya platform and "peaceful" goals do not serve to justify the activists' actions. A Greenpeace vessel arrived at the oil rig in September in order to board it and stage a protest against Arctic drilling. The ship and 30 people onboard were detained a day later by Russian border guards. The activists, who come from 19 different nations, were arrested and remanded by a court in the city of Murmansk until November 24. The dubiousness of the allegations was voiced by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said he didn't believe that the activists were pirates. But he said they violated international law and could have provoked a serious environmental disaster with their actions.

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