Friday, 22 November 2013

Kieron freed on bail, ITLOS rules Arctic Sunrise and crew should be released

Today, November 22nd, Kieron was freed on bail from the St Petersburg detention centre, 64 days after the Arctic Sunrise was first seized.

On November 14th, not long after the Arctic 30 had been moved to St Petersburg, Sir Paul McCartney wrote an open letter to Vladimir Putin asking for their release.

"Vladimir, millions of people in dozens of countries would be hugely grateful if you were to intervene to bring about an end to this affair. I understand of course that the Russian courts and the Russian Presidency are separate. Nevertheless I wonder if you may be able to use whatever influence you have to reunite the detainees with their families?"

Back in Kieron's homeland of Devon, the staff of Shebbear College, the school Kieron attended in the village in which he grew up, put on a Murder Mystery play on Friday 15th November. I can personally attest to the success of the event. It was very entertaining as well as raising funds for the campaign.

On Monday 18th November, the first round of detentions hearings began. Australian Colin Russell was the first to appear. He was denied bail, and his detention was extended until Februrary.

"Russell’s detention was extended until 24 February after the bail hearing on Monday.

“I haven't done anything wrong. I don't understand the reasons why I've been detained. I've done two months’ hard time for nothing. I've done nothing wrong,” he reportedly said in court after the decision was read out."

All previous court hearings had resulted in the same treatment for all thirty detainees. This was not a good sign. Kieron's hearing was also on Monday; unlike Colin Russell, however, no decision was reached as the hearing was adjourned due to Kieron  and his legal team being unhappy with the appointed translator.

"A bail hearing for jailed journalist Kieron Bryan has been adjourned until Wednesday after problems with a translator at the court in St Petersburg earlier today."

As you can see from this picture from the courtroom on Monday, Kieron has been reunited with his glasses, thanks to his legal team.

The three Russian detainees of course had no such translation problem, and developments in their hearings were certainly encouraging.

"A Russian court has granted bail to three Greenpeace crew members – a doctor, a freelance photographer, and a press officer – all detained since September 24 over the protest at an oil rig in the Barents Sea."

"Relatives of British journalist Kieron Bryon say his lawyer asked for his case to be adjourned until Wednesday.

His father Andy Bryon described the bail application as "very much in the balance".

He said the family found the prospect of another three-month detention "very difficult to accept"."

This Telegraph article includes a picture of Kieron in the cage:

On Tuesday, all of those appearing in court were granted bail.

"A Russian court has granted bail to another seven Greenpeace activists involved in the Arctic oil rig protest.

They are the first foreigners to be become eligible for release from jail while awaiting trial over the action.

It comes after three Russian nationals were freed on Monday."

Before Kieron's hearing on Wednesday, the first of the Arctic 30 left prison on bail.

"A Greenpeace activist was released on bail from a Russian detention facility Wednesday, taking her first steps out of jail since she and a group of fellow campaigners were detained during an Arctic Sea protest almost nine weeks ago."

As we were waiting for Kieron's hearing, some more of the activists were also granted bail.

Some video of Kieron's statements as part of the hearing were released by Greenpeace:

Finally, the decision came. Kieron was granted bail by the court. Immediately after the decision, Sky News were able to talk to him from the cage to get his immediate reaction:

"The first smile I've had for a while."

This decision kicked off another round of the Bryan family's media appearances.


Channel 4:


Kieron's UK lawyer, Robert Brown, also got a mention in the Times (paywall):

More activists were in court on Thursday, and all were granted bail. Kieron's lawyers were hoping to get him freed on Thursday, but were this was not possible due to a technicality.

"Bryan, who was granted bail on Wednesday, was expected to emerge from Pre-Trial Detention Centre No 4 early on Thursday evening, but at the last minute his release was delayed on a technicality. His lawyers said that he was now being "illegally detained" as all the documents were in order, but he was expected to be set free on Friday.

Greenpeace said in a statement that those released on bail had been given their passports back, and would now stay at a "safe place in St Petersburg". Despite not having valid Russian visas, the bailed activists have been given special registration cards that allow them to remain in Russia legally."

Also on Thursday, a Murmansk court rejected the appeal to release the Arctic Sunrise ship back into Greenpeace custody.

"The Murmansk Regional Court has today rejected an appeal against the arrest of the ship Arctic Sunrise by Russian authorities.
"This is an extremely disappointing ruling. We believe this verdict is in violation of both the Russian Criminal Procedure Code and international law. Cassation procedures are now available under Russian law," said Gerrit-Jan Bolderman, Director of Stichting Phoenix, the ship’s owner."

Finally, on Friday morning, Kieron was released. Sky News captured the event on video, including the moment when one misinformed reporter calls him Anthony:

"It's good to be outside and see the sky for the first time for a while. To everyone who's supported me and the rest of the group: Keep fighting, we're not free yet, this is first step. It's a glimmer of justice, but it's not finished."

"He said being imprisoned had been "tough" and that he was looking forward to "a long shower", "never doing another Sudoku puzzle again" and "an improved diet"."

The exact conditions of Kieron's bail have not been released, but it seems he is able to roam St Petersburg, and freely communicate with family and friends.

Meanwhile, Colin Russell, the only one of the thirty to be denied bail, is expecting to be freed within a month.

"“He [Russell] is now reasonably confident that there has been a change in strategy by the prosecutors and he’ll be freed on bail,” Myler told the Guardian. “This is the feeling we got as well from our conversations across town with prosecutors and the Investigative Committee. All the signals we are getting are that Colin will get the same treatment as everyone else.”"

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has been speaking about the Arctic Sunrise case, again emphasizing the separation of the executive and judiciary, but also calling Greenpeace's work 'noble':

""I’d like to assure you that the Russian political leadership has no desire to specially interfere in this process. There are certain legal procedures. We cannot interfere in the legal aspect of this case," Vladimir Putin said on Friday at a press conference following his meeting with Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Erdogan."

"In reference to the Greenpeace environmentalists, he said: "Are they doing noble work? Yes, it is noble. Did they do the right thing when they climbed the platform? No, it was wrong".
The President emphasized that the state should not be cruel but it must ensure that everyone complied with certain rules. Vladimir Putin also admitted that the state should be lenient."

Also on Friday, the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea reached a conclusion.

"The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea delivered its Order today in the “Arctic Sunrise” case (Kingdom of the Netherlands v. Russian Federation). It ordered that the vessel Arctic Sunrise and all persons detained in connection with the dispute be released and allowed to leave the territory and maritime areas under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation upon the posting of a bond in the amount of 3.6 million euros. "

"The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea today ordered the Russian Federation in a binding ruling to release the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and the 28 activists and two freelance journalists on board upon payment of a EUR 3.6 million bond."

This is a hugely positive development, however Russia has previously indicated that it does not consider the tribunal's decisions to be binding, as it opted out of certain clauses of the UNCLOS. The decision not to appear at the hearing in Hamburg was based on this objection. However, this is not necessarily legitimate (, and, regardless, the fact that a United Nations tribunal has ruled against Russia has enormous international significance.

It's great to see Kieron out of prison, but remember the charges still stand, and, if convicted, he could face a prison sentence. He is only released on bail, with conditions attached. This is not over yet. Let's keep fighting to completely Free Kieron.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Kieron moved to St Petersburg

It has been confirmed that Kieron and the rest of the Arctic 30 have been moved from Murmansk to St Petersburg.

Telegraph correspondent Roland Oliphant posted this story on Tuesday:

"Twenty-eight Greenpeace activists and two journalists jailed in Russia have arrived in three separate jails in St Petersburg, the Telegraph has learnt.
The prison train believed to be carrying the group pulled into St Petersburg's Ladozhsky railway station just after midday after a gruelling 27 hour journey from Murmansk on Tuesday afternoon."

The BBC article includes details of the motivation behind this.

"On Monday, investigators said the move meant the detainees were closer to the appropriate court."

Greenpeace's press release mentions the quarantine process that is commonplace during Russian prison transfers. It also discusses the upcoming deadline for the application of extension to the pre-trial detention period - this is currently due to expire on November 24th.

"After a prison transfer it is routine procedure in Russia that detainees are quarantined for infectious diseases. This may be a relatively short period, but lawyers will not have access to the detainees during this period.

On November 24, the two-month detention period imposed on the Arctic 30 by the Leninsky District Court of Murmansk comes to an end. If Russia’s Investigative Committee wishes to extend this period it must make an application to the relevant District Court in St. Petersburg no later than one week in advance (November 17)."

Other media outlets covered the story. This Euronews piece includes an interview with a Greenpeace Russia spokesman:

This piece from Russian state news agency RIA Novosti states that the charges have been downgraded to hooliganism, despite official confirmation of this.

The exact status of the charges remains a point of confusion. For the moment we understand that all of the thirty remain charged with both piracy and hooliganism. Last week the head of the Investigative Committee stated that some of the thirty would have additional charges of resisting arrest placed against them. This was reported in the Moscow Times:

"Russian prosecutors will level further charges of resisting arrest against several of the 30 people detained following a Greenpeace protest at an Arctic oil rig, the Investigative Committee said.

"Along with indictments for hooliganim, several of the intruders will be charged with resisting law enforcement officers," spokesman Vladimir Markin told in an interview Thursday."

Markin also said that the reason all thirty had been charged equally was that they had refused to co-operate with the investigation:

""They all refused to speak. Therefore investigators were forced to assess their actions on the basis of available evidence," Markin said.

It was for this same reason that the journalists and ship cook were charged with the same crimes as the activists, he added.

"If at the first stage of the investigation a photographer or cook had testified, for example, 'I was sitting near my pot and stewing a Russian borshch for our foreign guests,' then everything would have been clear," Markin said."

Kieron has been moved to Sizo 4 in St Petersburg, as this tweet from Greenpeace confirms.

No photographs of video of any of the Arctic 30 during the prison transfer have been released. This set on flickr from Greenpeace shows some of the prison vans involved, and the 'Kresty' dentention centre (Sizo 1).

Before this news of the move broke, Russell appeared on Channel Five News:

The families of the British detainees met with David Lidington MP, Minister for Europe, as this Guardian article reports:

"Clifford Harris, whose daughter Alexandra is also in the captive group, said: "Behind the scenes things are happening. Maybe not as fast as some people would like but it is a ball that is rolling.""

Free Kieron events coming up include:

Last weekend's Free Kieron benefit gig raised £1200. Thanks to everyone involved in organizing and running these events. Let's keep fighting to Free Kieron.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

ITLOS hearing, piracy charges possibly not dropped, potential move to St Petersburg, video of boarding

The silent protest went ahead last weekend at the Russian Embassy. The journalists' petition was handed in, containing over 1,400 names including those of many major newspaper editors.

Photo: Roo Lewis.

The BBC have an article and video:

It appears that the piracy charges against Kieron and the rest of the Arctic 30 have not yet been formally dropped.

"But Greenpeace spokesman Reece Turner says the activists appeared before the committee this week and the piracy charges remain.

"All 30 of the Arctic 30, including Australian Colin Russell, are currently charged with piracy and hooliganism," he said."

Hopefully this is simply be a procedural holdup.

In the Sunday Times on the 3rd November, this leading article points out that this case risks tarnishing Russia's image at a time when the country will increasingly be under the spotlight.

The Guardian on Monday carried an article by Judith Pallot, professor of the human geography of Russia at the University of Oxford. It contains some horrifying reading about the sizos, or remand prisons.

"The foreign prisoners have each been allocated a metal bunk in a small cell occupied by four or five other prisoners, in which there is a washbasin, a cold-water tap, a tepid radiator, a toilet only partly concealed by a low partition, and a table and bench screwed to the floor next to the toilet. This is where they spend 23 hours of the day, where they eat, wash and defecate in close proximity to one another."

Sky News also managed to obtain some video from inside the prison in Murmansk.

"We managed to get rare access inside the prison in Murmansk to speak to the governor and raise the detainees' concerns.

In response to a series of questions, he laughed and said: "In Great Britain your prisons are soft.""

There is a possibility that Kieron will not have to suffer a Murmansk winter, as there are rumblings of the prisoners being moved to St Petersburg. This article in the Independent is more cautiously worded than some others, which imply that the 30 have already been moved. 

"Russia is preparing to move 30 Greenpeace activists arrested over a protest against Arctic drilling from the far-north city of Murmansk to St. Petersburg, the environmental group said on Friday."

The timing or reason for this move have not been confirmed. It is certainly warmer in St Petersburg, given that is 1000 kilometres south of Murmansk. 

The International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea heard the 'Arctic Sunrise' case this week. Russia did not attend, as they claim to have not signed the relevant part of the treaty. The full text of the hearing can be found here 

"The Kingdom of the Netherlands requests the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea with respect to the dispute concerning the Arctic Sunrise ... to order, by means of provisional measures, the Russian Federation: 

to immediately enable the Arctic Sunrise to be resupplied, to leave its place of detention and the maritime areas under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and to exercise the freedom of navigation; 

e) to immediately release the crew members of the Arctic Sunrise, and allow them to leave the territory and maritime areas under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation."

Greenpeace statement:

"The Russian Federation did not attend today's hearing and the sitting was closed following the presentation of the Dutch government's oral argumentation. The Netherlands will now lodge written answers to the Tribunal’s questions by the end of Thursday November 7. The presiding judge set a tentative date of Friday November 22 for the Tribunal's provisional order."

At the moment it would appear that if the Tribunal orders Russia to release the ship and the thirty people who were aboard, they have no way of actually enforcing this. However it would be a hugely positive outcome if the tribunal rules in favour of the Dutch.

The Telegraph covered the story here:

"The ITLOS is a UN court, based in Hamburg. Founded in 1982, its decisions are binding – but it has no means of enforcing them."

British Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation. The BBC report here also contains an audio clip of an interview with Andy.

"Mr Cameron said he spoke to the Russian leader earlier this week about the situation.

"Their charges have been dropped from piracy to hooliganism, but I still think that is excessive. They are not hooligans, they are protesters," Mr Cameron told BBC Radio Devon."

Kieron's elected representatives in London continue to support him. The London Assembly passed a motion demanding his release.

"The London Assembly today demanded the Russian government release journalist and London resident Kieron Bryan who has been imprisoned in Murmansk for 7 weeks."

Harriet Harman, Kieron's MP, along with Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge, met with the Russian Ambassador to discuss the situation. 

"Constructive 1 & half hr mtg at @RussianEmbassy w/ Ambassador @Amb_Yakovenko & @Geoffrey_Cox re @FreeKieron Bryan"

Harriet Harman also wrote a column about the issue:

"It is hard to know how much information Kieron is able to get as he faces a winter in a prison cell in Murmansk so many thousands of miles away. But I have written to him to let him know that as his MP, I am doing everything I can to bring his plight to the attention of the Government and put pressure on the Russian authorities. His family will leave no stone unturned until he is back with them and I will do everything I can to make that happen."

Thank you to Harriet for her continued support and hard work to help Free Kieron.

The Russian Embassy, perhaps in response to Harriet Harman's meeting, published a document clarifying the Russian position:

"5. Why the Arctic Sunrise was detained?
The vessel was detained in the Exclusive economic zone of Russia after members of its team entered without permit the 3 mile security zone around the rig, which has special security requirements and is closed for any unauthorised navigation or access, and attempted to disembark unlawfully onto the Prirazlomnaya. Thus, the Arctic Sunrise was used as a definite means to commit the offence."

This three mile security zone has no basis in international law. 

Kieron's main route of communication with the outside world are his letters. Extracts of some of them have been published. This Greenpeace tumblr site contains full versions of letters from the 30:

"The hardest moment was the first night in prison – none of us knew where we were or what conditions the detention held, or whether we would be separated, left to navigate the unknown alone. Being shown to my cell and introduced to a couple of strangers was frightening, to say the least."

This Greenpeace video uses actors to narrate some of the letters, including Kieron's.

Greenpeace released video of the boarding of the Arctic Sunrise:

Kieron can be seen filming the events. Only a journalist would be filming when armed men are descending from a helicopter. 

Events to support Kieron's cause continue to be arranged. Tonight's Free Kieron benefit gig has comedy and music on the bill.

There is a Murder Mystery staff play at Shebbear College on Friday 15th November, and a dinner and dance at Tommy Jack's in Bude on Friday 22nd November.

It has now been over fifty days that Kieron has been impronised. Free Kieron.