Russian authorities have charged a man with ties to Islesboro with piracy following his arrest during a protest against Arctic oil drilling.

Peter Willcox, captain of the Greenpeace vessel Artic Sunrise, was charged with piracy by a Murmansk Court Thursday, Oct. 3, according to a press release from Greenpeace. Willcox, along with 27 other activists, were arrested Sept. 18 after two of the activists attempted to climb the Gazprom Arctic drilling platform Prirazlomnaya to hang a banner, according to Greenpeace.

If convicted, Willcox could face up to 15 years in prison.

Willcox's wife, Maggy, of Islesboro, said she has not been able to speak with Peter since his arrest, but has received updates on his condition from Greenpeace lawyers who have said Peter is "in good spirits and trying to stay positive."

Maggy said Peter has been involved with Greenpeace since 1981.

In 1985 Peter was captain of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior, which was bombed, killing one crew member, by French secret service agents, according to Greenpeace.

While Maggy has been unable to speak to or see her husband, she said Greenpeace activists, such as the two who climbed onto the Arctic oil rig, are aware their actions could result in their arrests. However, she said the fact that the ship was seized and everyone on board was also arrested was unexpected.

"He's a very committed environmental activist and has been all of his life," Maggy said of her husband.

Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo denied that any of the activists, as well as a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer, arrested by Russian authorities had committed a crime.

“Our activists have been charged with a crime that did not happen, they are accused of an imaginary offence,” Naidoo said in a press release. “A profound injustice is right now being perpetrated against our friends, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters who sit in jail.”

Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the presidential council for civil society and human rights, said he did not believe the crew of the Arctic Sunrise should be charged with piracy, according to international media reports.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Greenpeace International have filed appeals with the Murmansk court regarding the continued detention of the accused, according to the organization.

On Friday, Oct. 4, Reuters reported the Dutch government has initiated legal action against Russia to secure the release of the Arctic Sunrise and the Greenpeace activists.

Rep. Mike Michaud did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday regarding the piracy charge against Willcox.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.