Greenpeace captain with Islesboro ties granted amnesty by Russian parliament
Greenpeace Captain Peter Willcox was granted amnesty by the Russian parliament and will be allowed to return home in the coming weeks.
Willcox, along with 29 other individuals, were aboard the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise when it was seized by Russian authorities during a protest of oil drilling in the arctic. Willcox and the other activists, as well as two freelance journalists, were charged hooliganism following their arrest.
Hooliganism charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The activists were originally charged with piracy after their initial arrest following the protest, but that charge was later dropped and replaced with the hooliganism charge, according to international media reports.
Greenpeace officials had previously stated the non-Russian activists who were arrested were not being allowed to leave the country after the organization posted their bail. At the time, Greenpeace said the entity responsible for granting visas to the activists, the Federal Migration Service, would not give them until it received permission from the country's investigative committee.
However, on Wednesday, Dec. 18, Greenpeace officials said the Russian Parliament voted in favor of an amendment to grant amnesty to the activists. The only way the activists, known collectively as the “Arctic 30,” would not receive amnesty is if the entire bill, which includes the amendment, was rejected.
That is not an outcome that appeared to be likely, Greenpeace officials said in a statement.
Willcox and 25 other non-Russian activists will be free to return home once they are given exit visas by Russian authorities, Greenpeace said.
Willcox said in a statement that he looks forward to returning home, but also that he should not have been arrested and detained in the first place.
“We sailed north to bear witness to a profound environmental threat but our ship was stormed by masked men wielding knives and guns. Now it’s nearly over and we may soon be truly free, but there’s no amnesty for the Arctic,” he said in a statement.
Willcox continued by saying that the region continued to be a fragile place that is “under assault by oil companies and the rising temperatures they're driving.”
“We went there to protest against this madness. We were never the criminals here,” Willcox said in the statement.
If the activists accept the amnesty, they are not admitting guilt and the legal proceedings against them will end, Greenpeace said. However, whether the organization will be able to recover its vessel Arctic Sunrise, which is still impounded in Murmansk, Russia, is unclear.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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