EDT, October 14, 2013 MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia denied bail on Monday to the American captain of a Greenpeace ship and two other foreign activists who are among 30 environmentalists arrested on charges of piracy over a protest at an Arctic drilling platform. Captain Peter Willcox and activists David John Haussmann, 49, of New Zealand and Camila Speziale, 21, who has Italian and Argentinian citizenship, had appealed against an order that they be held in pre-trial detention until late November. A decision on another Arctic Sunrise crew member, Cristian D’Alessandro of Italy, was put off until Tuesday, when bail hearings for a Briton and a Swiss activist are also planned. A court in the northern port city of Murmansk has already denied bail to two Britons and four Russians held over the September 18 protest in which activists tried to scale the Prirazlomnaya oil rig and security forces later boarded the Greenpeace ship. The piracy charges, punishable by up to 15 years’ jail, appear aimed at sending a message that Moscow will not tolerate attempts to disrupt its development of the resource-rich Arctic. Other countries and firms seeking to exploit Arctic energy resources face similar concerns from environmentalists, who fear they will destroy a pristine ecosystem. Willcox, 60, a veteran campaigner who was at the helm of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed and sunk by the French secret service in 1985, denied the charges against him in court. “I have been doing this for 40 years and never faced a charge like this,” the state-run Russian news agency RIA quoted him as saying. “If I could start everything over, I would stay in New York.” Greenpeace says the protest at the rig owned by state-controlled Russian energy company Gazprom was peaceful and calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded. “He is a hero not a pirate,” Willcox’s wife, Maggie, said in a statement. “I appeal to the common sense and conscience of the Russian authorities to let my husband and the rest of the people from the Arctic Sunrise come home.” President Vladimir Putin has said the activists were not pirates but that they had violated international law. The head of the Kremlin’s human rights advisory body has said he would ask prosecutors to withdraw the piracy charges. Investigators have said more charges will be pressed against some protesters as drugs and other suspect items had been found on the ship. Greenpeace denies there were illegal items aboard.
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A court in the northern region of Murmansk where the 30 crew members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise are being held ruled that the ship’s captain Pete Willcox, 60, and Camila Speziale, 21, should not be released. Willcox is one of the most prominent of the activists detained as he is a veteran Greenpeace campaigner who also captained the ship Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed by French secret agents in New Zealand in 1985. The Greenpeace crew have been held in Murmansk for almost three weeks after their Dutch-flagged ship was seized by Russian security forces in a commando-style operation in Arctic waters. Two of its activists had climbed on to an oil platform owned by energy giant Gazprom to protest its drilling in a sensitive Arctic environment which Greenpeace says risks environmental catastrophe. The Russian authorities have now charged all 30 crew with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years. The so-called “Arctic 30” have been placed in pre-trial detention until November 24. Last week the same court turned down bail requests from two British activists among the Arctic 30. Russian news agencies quoted Willcox as saying during a break in his hearing on Monday that he had many regrets and if he could start again, would have stayed in New York rather than embarking on the Arctic voyage. He also said he was suffering from heart problems. “I’m innocent and I do not understand what I’m accused of,” Greenpeace quoted Speziale as saying in court Monday. “I don’t have anything against your country. Russia and Argentina have good relations. But now I’m arrested for something I haven’t done. I really want to come back to my country and continue working and studying,” she added.
Russia keeps Greenpeace ship captain behind bars
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