Russian court: Greenpeace activist to stay in jail

Associated Press
Greenpeace International activist Colin Russell of Australia stands in a cage during a court hearing to consider the request to extend the detention of 30 members of the Arctic Sunrise Greenpeace International ship in St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. The 30 people arrested following a Greenpeace protest at an Arctic oil rig were transferred to St. Petersburg from Murmansk. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — A Russian judge refused Monday to free Australian Greenpeace activist Colin Russell, who was among 30 people arrested following a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic, signaling that others also could be kept in jail for three more months pending trial.

In a subsequent hearing, however, a judge agreed to free a Russian doctor who was on the Greenpeace ship when it was seized by the Russian coast guard on Sept. 18. Yekaterina Zaspa was released on bail of 2 million rubles ($61,500).

Investigators had asked St. Petersburg courts to extend the detention period of all 30. Hearings were scheduled Monday for seven of the group.

During similar hearings two months ago on whether to jail the defendants, the rulings were the same in all 30 cases, which made Monday's release of the Russian doctor unexpected.

The Russians arrested everyone on board the ship, including cooks and journalists documenting the protest, after a few of the environmental activists tried to scale an offshore drilling platform owned by Russian state energy giant Gazprom.

All 30 were charged with hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years. They were initially charged with piracy, a more serious offense, but investigators later said that those charges would be dropped.

"I haven't done anything wrong," Russell, 59, told the court, adding that he did not understand why he had been detained.

His lawyer asked the court to free him on bail of 2 million rubles or put him under house arrest in a St. Petersburg hotel. But Judge Alla Yermakova refused, saying if Russell were freed he could put pressure on the investigation or flee the country. She ordered him held until Feb. 24.

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