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British Arctic protesters locked up

All six Britons held following a Greenpeace protest at an Arctic oil rig have been locked up in Russia for two months without charge.

Four had learned they would be detained for two months earlier this week, with the remaining two, activists Frank Hewetson and Anthony Perrett, remanded in custody on suspicion of piracy following court appearances.

It comes as a group of 30, including the six Britons, were held 10 days ago when armed Russian officials boarded their vessel, the Arctic Sunrise.

The boat and protesters were taken from the Arctic's Pechora sea, near to oil company Gazprom's platform, and transferred to the port of Murmansk.

Russian authorities are investigating charges of piracy, which carry a jail term of 10 to 15 years.

Campaigners Philip Ball and Alexandra Harris, freelance videographer Keiron Bryan and engineer Iain Roger learned they would be detained for two months without charge earlier this week.

Mr Hewetson is a long-term activist with the environmental group. His partner Nina Gold described their treatment as "wildly disproportionate and unjust" and said his children were worried for his welfare.

"Frank is an environmental activist trying, on behalf of us all, to defend the Arctic from exploitation by the oil companies through peaceful non violent protest," she said in a statement released through Greenpeace.

"Two months behind bars without charge is wildly disproportionate and unjust. I would ask the Russian authorities to reconsider this unwarranted and harsh decision.

"His children and I are very concerned for him but know that he will be cheered by the support of millions of people worldwide which is bringing the destruction of the Arctic to international attention."

Mr Bryan's parents have also said they are "extremely worried" about their son.

Andy and Ann Bryan, from Shebbear in Devon, said: "Our son is a very kind, caring individual and environmental issues have always been very close to his heart. He would sympathise with the cause but he was simply there doing his job as a freelance videographer.

"None of those on board should be subjected to this prolonged period of detention. They are extremely brave, caring individuals who were peacefully protesting to bring the world's attention to the dangers of drilling in that particular area and of the serious consequences it could have on that already fragile environment.

"We are told that they are being treated fairly and are all well, for which we are extremely grateful. However, the fact that they are still there at all is a farce and quite out of proportion to their actions.

"We all love and miss him and just want him home safe and sound."

Greenpeace is campaigning against attempts by companies to drill for oil in the waters of the Arctic, warning that a spill would be highly environmentally damaging and extraction of more fossil fuels will add to climate change.

Gazprom's plans to start drilling from the Prirazlomnaya platform in the first quarter of 2014 raised the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three nature reserves protected by Russian law, campaigners said.

Executive director of Greenpeace UK, John Sauven, said: "The total overreaction by the Russian authorities to a peaceful non-violent protest in the Arctic Ocean has continued today.

"Even President Putin has publicly stated at a meeting of the Arctic Forum last week that Greenpeace are not pirates. This is an act of intimidation and bullying by the Russian authorities. We will continue to support those who have been imprisoned and their families at this time."


From Belfast Telegraph