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Dutch seek to free oil protesters

An international tribunal has been asked to order Russia to release a Greenpeace protest ship and the activists who were on board.

The Netherlands made the request to the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea which adjudicates in disputes arising from interpretation and application of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists have been held in Murmansk since their ship, the Arctic Sunrise was seized by the Russian coast guard after a protest near a Gazprom-owned oil rig on September 18.

They have been charged with piracy which carries a 15-year sentence in Russia.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said the request was a procedural step in an arbitration case the Dutch launched two weeks ago seeking to free the activists and their ship, which sails under the Dutch flag.

He said: "It will come as no surprise to the Russian Federation" that the Dutch have now asked for the tribunal to order the release pending a final decision in the case.

Mr Timmermans said it would take about a month for the tribunal to reach a decision on the request.

Greenpeace International welcomed the Dutch initiative and called on other governments whose nationals are among the detained activists "to step up their work to ensure the immediate release of the detainees."


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