Russian authorities have dropped the piracy charges against crew members aboard the Arctic Sunrise — including the captain who has ties to Islesboro — and are instead pursuing charges of hooliganism.

The piracy charges were dropped Wednesday, Oct. 23, and the charges of hooliganism were initiated, according to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation's website. A hooliganism conviction carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russian, responded to the hooliganism charge by saying the people aboard the Arctic Sunrise were “no more hooligans than they were pirates.”

Piracy convictions carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Chuprov also stated that Greenpeace would continue to fight the charges against the detainees.

“We will contest the trumped-up charge of hooliganism as strongly as we contested the piracy allegations. They are both fantasy charges that bear no relation to reality,” Chuprov said in a prepared statement. “The Arctic 30 protested peacefully against Gazprom's dangerous oil drilling and should be free."

The original piracy charges stem from a Sept. 18 protest when two activists aboard the Arctic Sunrise climbed onto the Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Barents Sea as part of a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic.

During that protest, Russian authorities detained 28 Greenpeace activists, including the ship's captain Peter Willcox whose wife lives on Islesboro, a freelance photographer and a freelance videographer.

Willcox, along with the 29 other detainees, were denied bail by a Murmansk court earlier this month. Since then, the Dutch government filed an application with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, requesting the immediate release of the Arctic Sunrise all of the people who were aboard the ship.

The investigative committee indicated it may bring additional charges against some of the detainees, including the use of violence against a representative of the authorities, according to the committee's website. The committee did not indicate which detainees could face additional charges.

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