|Iran’s environmental chief urges Russia to release Greenpeace activists||
TEHRAN – The chairwoman of the Iranian Environmental Protection Organization has asked Russia to immediately free Greenpeace activists who had protested oil drilling in the Arctic.
If these activists were just protesting exploration of new hydrocarbon resources in the Arctic it had been because of their “concern” for the global warming, she stated.
“I expect that the government of Russia, by considering this reality, order an immediate release of the detainees,” Masoumeh Ebtekar told a news website covering Iran’s environmental issues.
No government is expected to stand against civil institutions and environmentalists who are worried about the future of the earth, she added.
“I, as a Champion of Earth, want the Russian government investigate the pros and cons of the issue and do not create hurdles for Greenpeace activists,” she noted.
Ebtekar was named one of the seven 2006 Champions of the Earth by the United Nations Environment Program as a prominent and "inspirational" environmental leader who has made an impact at policy level in a region of the world.
On October 23, Russia dropped piracy charges against 30 people involved in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling, replacing them with lesser offences and cutting the maximum jail sentence they face to seven years from 15.
The charges against activists who protested at a Gazprom oil platform off Russia's northern coast in September have been changed from piracy to hooliganism, the federal Investigative Committee said in a statement.
Greenpeace said the new charges were still "wildly disproportionate" and promised to contest them.
All 30 people who were aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise during the September 18 protest, in which activists tried to scale the Prirazlomnaya platform, are being held in detention in the northern Murmansk region until at least late November.
The Investigative Committee said it had begun the procedure of pressing the new charges, which carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The piracy charges were punishable by 10 to 15 years.
Greenpeace called the hooliganism charge "nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest".
"This is still a wildly disproportionate charge that carries up to seven years in jail," Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia said in a statement.
"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," he said. "The (activists) are no more hooligans than they were pirates."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the activists were clearly not pirates but that they violated international law.
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