Russian authorities refuse to allow Greenpeace captain to leave the country

By Ben Holbrook | Dec 19, 2013
Photo by: Dmitri Sharomov/Greenpeace Greenpeace Captain Peter Willcox, right, meets his wife, Maggy, at the St. Petersburg Airport in Russia. Willcox has been detained in the country since September after being arrested during a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic.

Russian authorities are refusing to allow the Greenpeace activists who have been detained since mid-September to leave the country, despite granting the protesters bail.

Known collectively as the “Arctic 30,” members of the group, which includes Peter Willcox, the captain of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise and husband to Islesboro resident Maggy Willcox, were charged with piracy and hooliganism following a protest at a Russian oil rig in the Barents Sea, as part of a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic.

Willcox is facing a charge of piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, and a charge of hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Willcox was granted bail during a court appearance in November and has since had his $61,000 bail posted. However, in a statement released by Greenpeace, Willcox and other foreign detainees are not being allowed to leave the country.

According to Greenpeace, lawyers representing the organization asked the Russian Investigative Committee to contact the Federal Migration Service to request visas for each of the non-Russians. The investigative committee, however, stated it refuses to contact the Federal Migration Service and the Federal Migration Service refuses to issue visas without a direct order from the investigative committee, Greenpeace said.

In addition to requesting visas, lawyers for Greenpeace requested at least one month's notice from the investigative committee regarding when it would want to interview the detainees. However, the committee refused to provide such notice, according to Greenpeace.

If the detainees were to leave the country and fail to return for a scheduled interview with the investigative committee, they would violate the conditions of their bail.

Speaking to the investigative committee's refusal to allow the detainees to leave Russia, Willcox said he is ready to come home and that an international court said he and the other activists should be allowed to leave the country.

“I am ready to go home to my family. We were seized in international waters and brought to Russia against our will, then charged with a crime we didn’t commit and kept in jail for two months. A respected international court says we should be allowed to go home, so do numerous presidents and prime ministers, but we can’t get visas to leave the country, and even if we could there’s no guarantee the Investigative Committee won’t schedule an interview for the day I get home, forcing me to break my bail conditions,” Willcox said in a prepared statement.

He continued by saying, “This is either a mistake and we’re caught in a vicious bureaucratic circle, or it’s a deliberate snub against international law. Either way this is a farce.”

Greenpeace officials indicated an amnesty decree that could be voted on this month by the Russian parliament could be amended to allow the charges against the Arctic 30 to be dropped.

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