|[Picture: The Arctic Sunrise]|
UPDATE: The charges against the Arctic 30 have been downgraded from piracy to hooliganism, however the activists still face a long jail term should they be found guilty.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is calling on the Russian government to release, with immediate effect, 30 Greenpeace activists who have been detained and charged with piracy.
Greenpeace also responded to the MUA's support saying, "It really means a lot to the families of our colleagues and the wider Greenpeace community. Can you pass on our thanks Paddy, a lot of my colleagues were really moved by this support."
On September 20, the Russian Coast Guard illegally boarded a Greenpeace ship - Arctic Sunrise - while in international waters and arrested 30 people on board at gunpoint.
The activists were protesting Arctic oil drilling on the Gazprom platform, Prirazlomnaya, in the Pechora Sea off the Russian coast.
MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said the piracy charge was ludicrous and urged national council to unanimously support a resolution of support for the wrongfully detained activists.
“They are being detained on an outrageous charge that is completely unjustified,'' Crumlin said.
“You can understand why there is such an outpouring of support.''
"This was a peaceful protest and these jumped up charges in no way qualify as piracy,"
“Make no mistake, the real threat to the Arctic comes not from Greenpeace but from oil companies like Gazprom that are determined to ignore both science and good sense to drill in remote, frozen seas," he said.
Australian Greenpeace activist Colin Russell from Tasmania is one of 30 activists who could face up to 15 years in prison if Russian authorities persist with the piracy charge.
Worldwide protests were held last for the ‘Arctic 30’, who were detained in the port city of Murmansk with successive rallies also held in Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide and Brisbane.
A British-born Australian resident and a New Zealand man who lives in South Australia have also been charged.
The MUA passed a resolution outlining the support at the National Council held in Sydney last week.
The following resolution was passed in support of the ‘Arctic 30’:
The Maritime Union of Australia strongly condemns the Russian government and its Coast Guard for the illegal boarding of the Arctic Sunrise, Greenpeace International boat's which was engaged in a peaceful protest in international waters to protest the environmentally reckless drilling in the Arctic by Gazprom at the Prirazlomnaya platform.
The MUA knows very well the rule of law as it relates to international waters, shipping rights and piracy. The actions of the Arctic Sunrise were part of a peaceful protest, and not piracy as the Russian Government has falsely charged. International law, in no way, shape or form, conjoins peaceful protest and piracy. By alleging that a peaceful protest is piracy, the Russian government has made the sea a potentially more dangerous place.
We join with the thousands of people who engaged in 220 solidarity events in 48 countries and demand the immediate release of the 28 activists and 2 freelance journalists who are being held illegally by Russian authorities.