Russian authorities have not dropped piracy charges against the Greenpeace activists who were arrested while protesting oil drilling in the Arctic, despite statements that indicated otherwise.

The “Arctic 30,” as the group is known, have been held in a jail in Murmansk since they were arrested in September. Russian authorities charged the activists with piracy after two of the activists climbed aboard the Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Barents Sea as part of a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic.

Among the detainees is the the captain of the vessel, Peter Willcox who has ties to Islesboro, which was seized by Russian authorities during the protest.

In late October Russia's Investigative Committee stated it would drop the charge of piracy against the activists and instead charge the Arctic 30 with hooliganism.

However, when the detainees appeared in court last week, the piracy charge was not withdrawn and the additional charge of hooliganism was added, according to a press release from Greenpeace.

Piracy charges carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Hooliganism carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

Responding to the decision by Russian authorities to not drop the piracy charges when they said they would, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo called the legal proceedings a “farce."

“As things stand the Russian authorities propose to jail thirty men and women for maybe twenty years because two peaceful protesters tried to hang a small yellow banner from the side of a five hundred thousand tonne oil platform. First this saga shocked people across the world, now it has descended into farce. Those campaigners were willing to risk their liberty to shine a light on dangerous Arctic oil drilling, but the authorities’ reaction has been wildly disproportionate,” Naidoo said in a prepared statement.

According to Greenpeace, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is scheduled to hear a case brought by the Dutch government on Wednesday, Nov. 6, regarding the release of the activists.

Greenpeace also stated that all 30 detainees are being moved from a detention center in Murmansk to a jail in St. Petersburg. The reason for the move is unclear, according to Greenpeace, and the organization stated it was concerned about the conditions the activists may have to endure in St. Petersburg.

“The detainees shouldn’t be in jail at all. They should be free to join their families and restart their lives. St Petersburg has some daylight in the winter months, unlike Murmansk. Families and consular officials will now find it easier to visit the thirty,” Naidoo said in a statement. “ But there is no guarantee that conditions inside the new detention centre will be any better than in Murmansk. In fact, they could be worse. There is no justification whatsoever to keep the Arctic 30 in any prison for a day longer.”

In a letter sent to The Republican Journal, Rep. Mike Michaud, said his office has been in contact with the State Department and they are working to ensure that Willcox is "treated humanely in jail and fairly under the Russian judicial system."

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