Sunday, 27 October 2013
Charges reduced to hooliganism, MPs debate, Kieron writes again, Journalists' Silent protest planned
"And today the investigators have decided to reclassify the charges for part 2 of article 213 of the RF Penal Code (hooliganism, which is gross violation of public order, expressing obvious disrespect to society, committed using the objects, used as weapons, by an organized group and accompanied by resistance to a representative of the authorities)."
The BBC covered the story:
Greenpeace responded in a typically belligerent fashion:
"In response, Ben Ayliffe at Greenpeace International said:
"The Arctic 30 are innocent of all charges. There can be no justification for locking them up in a cell in Murmansk. This was an entirely peaceful protest in international waters to shine a light on Gazprom's reckless Arctic oil drilling plans. Eleven warning shots were fired across the Arctic Sunrise, bullets were fired into the water next to the protesters, they were threatened with guns and knives and detained on trumped up charges to defend Gazprom’s oil interests. Who are the real hooligans here?”"
Coverage from Russia's state news service, RIA:
"Markin of Russia’s Investigative Committee also said some members of the group could face charges of using force against state officials.
He said the Greenpeace group’s lack of cooperation with investigators had unnecessarily drawn out the process.
“The failure of the accused to give evidence gave cause for investigators to carefully consider all alternative versions of what took place,” Markin said."
Amnesty International commented on the development:
"The provision is vague and open to abuse, and Amnesty International believes it should not be applied in this case.
“This Russian roulette of criminal charges must stop. The Arctic 30 activists must be released immediately and the Russian authorities must halt their ill-founded attempts to criminally prosecute them,” said Dalhuisen."
This statement also points out that the two of the members of protest punk band 'Pussy Riot' were convicted of hooliganism and are serving two-year prison sentences. Amnesty International considers them 'prisoners of conscience'. However, according to the Russian Criminal Code, hooliganism has a much greater range of possible sentences than piracy.
Early on Wednesday, MPs had debated the situation in Westminster Hall. Many MPs were in attendance, and made some strong statements encouraging the Prime Minister to involve himself more in the issue. Video can be found here:
A transcript can be found here:
The MP for Exeter, Ben Bradshaw, replied to Foreign Office Minister David Lidington's confirmation that David Cameron had not personally spoken to President Putin:
"Is the Minister saying that the Prime Minister has not picked up the phone to President Putin, as Chancellor Merkel has? That is outrageous."
Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, said this:
"Kieron Bryan is 29. He was a videographer on the Arctic Sunrise. He was nominated for an award. He is a talented, young and idealistic man. He was not there to break the law; he was on board the ship merely to record what happened and to keep a record."
Harriet Harman, Kieron's MP, gave us additional insight into the conditions that Kieron is currently experiencing.
"Regarding his access to the outside world, I understand that his letters are brought in and he is allowed to read them, but then they are taken away. So he cannot even keep his letters and see what his friends and family are writing to him. He has only been allowed one book and he has now finished that. He was allowed one phone call to his family when he was on the way to detention. Since then, he has only had access to the phone last weekend, which is not acceptable."
The Russian Ambassador met with MPs in the afternoon. He was doorstepped by ITV News, but refused to comment on the ongoing legal process. In this report Russell also gives his reaction to the new charges.
Also on Wednesday, Russia announced that it would boycott the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea hearing.
"“The Russian side has informed the Netherlands and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea that it does not accept the arbitration procedure in the Arctic Sunrise case, and is not planning to take part in the tribunals,” the ministry said in a statement Wednesday, adding that Moscow is still “open to the settlement” of the case. The statement did not elaborate."
"When Russia ratified the convention in 1997, it submitted an accompanying statement saying it would not accept procedures that led to the tribunal making binding decisions concerning national sovereignty, the ministry said."
This post on law blog Opinon Juris mentions that China has recently responded similarly to a UNCLOS dispute.
"If Russia does simply walk away, this is another body blow to the dispute settlement under the UNCLOS system, especially considering that Russia has accepted the jurisdiction of the ITLOS in past disputes."
It is worth noting that the United States has not ratified, or even signed, this convention.
Regardless of Russia's position, a positive outcome in this hearing will add to the growing international pressure.
Today (Sunday 27th October), a letter from Kieron was published in the Sunday Times.
The BBC report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24690005
Again, it's tough to read. It's clear that the possibility of a prison sentence weighs heavy on his mind. The poor quality (and dubious composition) of the food is discussed in some detail. It is not clear if this letter was written before the reduction of the charges, but given the lead time on communication so far, it would seem likely.
In The Indenpendent, a letter from one of Kieron's fellow British detainees, Frank Hewetson, was published on Saturday:
"Lunch/abyet, 13:00 Potato is in there somewhere. The trick is to sieve out the suspected meat particles and positive ID them before consumption. It is often quite wise not to consume them.
Dinner/oozhin, 19:00 Potato makes a comeback on most evenings, indeed lunch makes a comeback on some evenings, but that’s quite often well before 19:00. If one gets extra boiled water and uses bread, dinner can actually be quite palatable."
On Saturday 2nd November, there will be a silent protest by journalists outside the Russian Embassy. Trade publication Press Gazette:
"Kieron’s brother, Russell has thanked the 1,200 journalists for signing the petition and asked them to step up the protest.
“We are writing to invite you to join a show of solidarity for Kieron - a silent protest by his fellow journalists, between 12 noon and 2pm, on Saturday 2nd November, outside the Russian Embassy, W8 4PQ."
Please encourage any journalists you know to attend this.
This prickly interview on Russia Today with Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo shows how the feeling in Russia is quite different in certain circles:
The debate on Twitter between the interviewer, Oksana Boyto, and BBC correspondent Daniel Sandford, is quite interesting:
"Why," @OksanaBoyko_RT asked "do you have so little regard for the legal system in this country?" Not a good question to ask"
Jess has created these images which you may wish to use on social networks as a profile picture, or anywhere you like.
Kieron is no more a hooligan than a pirate. He has been imprisoned without trial for over a month now. Whilst the latest development is a positive step, it's still a long way from Kieron being out of prison. Free Kieron.
Monday, 21 October 2013
""When he finally called on Saturday it was like all my Christmases had come at once," said his mother, Ann Bryan.
"Kieron sounded strong and calm, and told me he was trying to stay positive, though that was sometimes hard due to his not being able to communicate regularly with other people.
"He found the hardest things to cope with were the uncertainty of his future and occupying his time in his cell.
To keep himself busy, she said, Bryan was writing – "letters, thoughts, anything that comes into his mind" – and reading. "He's now finished the only book he has been able to get hold of so far, Jane Eyre, and said he would very much like some more.""
Personally I am looking forward to the publication of a impassioned essay, in the vein of Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
We learn from Nancy that Kieron has maintained his indefatigable sense of humour.
""At one point, I had my back to the car and my shoulders were shaking – my mum thought I was crying, but Kieron was trying to cheer me up, and was telling me things to make me laugh.""
Sounds like Kieron to me.
Kieron's MP Harriet Harman has continued to advance the cause in Parliament. She has tabled Early Day Motion 600 calling for his release. Details will be found here, once the Parliamentary website is updated:
Please encourage your MP to sign the EDM, as well as attend the debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday at 9:30 am. You can easily contact your MP through https://www.writetothem.com/.
The government of the Netherlands has advanced the legal action they began against Russia to secure the release of the ship and its occupants under international law.
"The Dutch government has lodged a rare application at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), asking it to order the immediate release of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and all those who were aboard for the peaceful protest against Gazprom’s Arctic oil platform, the Prirazlomnaya. If ITLOS rules in favour of the Netherlands, the 28 Greenpeace International activists, freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov and freelance videographer Kieron Bryan could go home while they await confirmation of a Russian court date."
Only 21 cases have ever been heard by the Tribunal. This is the first ever for the Dutch. ITLOS has a United Nations mandate.
In Murmansk, bail continues to be denied for the rest of the thirty detainees, including British activist Alex Harris. The Telegraph reported on her situation, including extracts from a letter she wrote to her family:
"Earlier, while addressing the court, she said: “I have been in prison for 22 days for a crime I did not commit. Furthermore I have not seen any document showing my involvement in such a crime.
“The only thing that happened was peaceful protest and I believe the video evidence and Greenpeace’s long history will prove this.”"
Greenpeace were intending to protest in Murmansk during the bail hearings using a mock cage. This was stolen during at break-in at thier offices.
A strange development, which is difficult to interpret at the moment.
Greenpeace's UK executive director, John Sauven, was interviewed today in The Independent.
"Whatever happens to the Arctic, it looks likely that the case against the 30 protesters could drag on for a while – and given Russia’s track record in these matters, there can be no guarantee that justice or reason will prevail."
A petition has been set up on campaigning platform Avaaz to free the Arctic 30, aiming mainly at Russia's partners in the BRICS economic alliance:
Across the pond, friend of Kieron's, Andrew Wallace Chamings, interviewed Russell for truth-out.org
"Have you or your family considered the prospect of traveling to Russia?
Absolutely. We are desperate to go. I think at the moment it's a case of taking the Foreign Office advice. But we are starting to look at visas, and we will go as soon as we can. Mum and Dad want to make sure he's OK and that he knows we are fighting for him."
Ben O'Donnell has organised a benefit gig for Free Kieron at the Windmill, Brixton, on Sunday 9th November at 7 pm. Details to follow.
I've never been but it looks like exactly Kieron's kind of place.
Fundraising continues - vocal supporter Peter Lovett raised £150 with a cake sale at Kingsley School. Remember, you can donate through Paypal.
A fascinating (and long) article, originally written in Russian by Sergei Kharov, has been translated here:
It includes an interview with the adoptive father of Dmitry (Dima) Litvinov, and this quote from Viktoria Zhdanova, lead lawyer for the company Inmarin, expert on the Law of the Sea:
"The Greenpeace activists did not try to take over another person’s property for mercenary aims, and that is precisely the main motivation for piracy. Their action did not presume the gain of personal profit or the seizure of the platform. The charging of the photographer Denis Sinyakov with these offenses looks all the more strange."
I'll end today's update with a simple but touching story from Kent.
"Emily Gilbert, who set up Rowdy and Fancy's Chocolate in Mark Beech with her best friend Lynne, hopes that sending their chocolate to a Greenpeace campaigner in custody over piracy charges will make a difference.
"We read in the news that Kieron Bryan, one of the Arctic 30, is reported to have said in a letter to his family: 'I have run out of books but a care package of food arrived today – chocolate helps!'
"We immediately decided to send Kieron some of ours.""
I hope Kieron enjoys his gourmet chocolate. Of course, we all hope he'll be home soon and free to eat as much chocolate as he likes. Write to your MP, encourage them to sign Early Day Motion 600 and to attend Wednesday's debate - it might help to Free Kieron.
Thursday, 17 October 2013
This brilliant illustration by Nibby Williams sums up the ridiculous nature of the charges laid against Kieron.
On Wednesday Kieron's family visited the Foreign Office.
"His father Andy, from Shebbear, in Devon, said: "Days like today give us a little bit more positivity, a little bit more hope.
"The Foreign Office has assured us they are in talks with other governments... we wanted to know they were doing this.""
This was covered on BBC Spotlight South West TV News. Unfortunately this is only available on iPlayer for a very short time. Here's some photos of Russell being filmed, and as he appeared:
MP Chris Bryant has managed to secure a debate in then House of Commons, about the Arctic 30. The BBC covered the story here:
"Andy Bryan, father of freelance video journalist Kieron, said the debate was "good news" for the families.
"In terms of publicity, a debate in the Commons is good news for us and will hopefully get [Foreign Secretary] William Hague to do something," he told BBC News."
Andy also mentions that they hoping to get a phone call from Kieron soon.
Details of the debate can be found on the UK Parliament website: http://services.parliament.uk/calendar/Commons/WestminsterHall/2013/10/23/events.html
Please write to your MP to encourage them to attend this debate. You can find your MP at http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/
Ready-to-use letters can be found here:
If you have already written to your MP: Letter
If you have not yet written to your MP: Letter
More of the Arctic 30 have today been denied bail, again with proceedings held up by translation issues. Eleven Nobel laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, added their voices calling for the piracy charges to be dropped. The Independent covers this:
German chancellor Angela Merkel has also commented on the case:
BBC correspondent Daniel Sandford has made this documentary about oil drilling in northern Russia:
A few people have asked me about Kieron's legal representation after his last letter. Kieron has a lawyer provided by Greenpeace, who are also covering the costs for Kieron's family to travel to Russia. The Donate page has more details of this.
Please write to your MP. It's quick and easy and may just help to Free Kieron.
Tuesday, 15 October 2013
At the current rate it will be some time before all the appeals are heard. As the BBC article indicates, there are translation issues - not a surprise given the huge variety of nationalities in custody.
Monday's edition of The Times carried coverage of Kieron's letter home:
Sky News also had the story, with a few different extracts from the letter:
Kieron's MP, Harriet Harman, continues to support Kieron. She tweeted on Monday:
"Still no phone call from Kieron Bryan to his family. am protesting to @RussianEmbassy #FreeKieron"
She also submitted a question to William Hague, Foreign Secretary:
"To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, when British consular officials in Russia have visited Kieron Bryan since his detention on 19 September 2013; how long each such visit lasted; and when the next such visit will take place."
(page 28 of this pdf: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmordbk2/qbpart2.pdf)
Chris Bryant MP, Chair of the Parliamentary All-Party Group on Russia, met with Kieron's family today.
The International Federation of Journalists reiterated their support of Kieron and Denis Sinyakov:
"The decision of the Russian court to detain these men and charge them with piracy is simply absurd," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "They are journalists and were doing their jobs. The court's ruling violates press freedom and freedom of expression and we call on the authorities in Russia to drop the charges and release the journalists immediately."
In St Petersburg, journalists protested in support of Denis Sinyakov:
Back home, Kieron's occasional football team offered their support:
A parcel for Kieron from his girlfriend was denied entry into Russia by customs today. Kieron has still been unable to call his family, which seems unfair, as Harriet Harman states. Let's hope the involvement of MPs can help to Free Kieron.
Sunday, 13 October 2013
It's not easy reading, but Kieron does assure us that his basic needs are being met.
"The food is basic or grim but I'll not starve. The guards can't communicate but are polite and harmless, likewise my cell mate can barely string two words of English together but he is fine with me."
There is also coverage in the Times (paywall):
Russell appears in this Yahoo News video:
You can now donate to the Free Kieron fund through PayPal by clicking on the 'Donate' button on the right-hand side of this site, or by visiting the Donate page. Also added to site is a 'How to help Kieron' page which contains a simple list of all the things you can do to help Free Kieron. This is also a permanent link at the top of the page.
You may also have noticed the wording of the banner has slightly changed, to 'Journalist not a pirate', from 'Journalist not activist'. This is so avoid any possible suggestion that the campaign is making a judgement about the imprisonment of Greenpeace activists. The only purpose of this site is to Free Kieron - click the link at the top of this page to see how you can help.
Saturday, 12 October 2013
Inside the paper, this article quotes US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
"There should be a greater international outcry over Russia’s arrest of Greenpeace activists and charging them with piracy."
US - Russian relations are arguably not at a peak right now, but nevertheless having someone of Hillary Clinton's stature speak out in support of the thirty detainees is certainly a positive.
Yesterday's raw footage of the court hearing released by Greenpeace is also on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONUfjLFvM44
A friend of the Free Kieron campaign asked a Russian-speaking friend for a translation:
"It's very patchy, and many fragments are not very comprehensible. However, what [can be understood] goes as follows: 1) The judge, through the interpreter, announces to Kieron Bryan his rights (including the right to demand recusation [sic] of the judge, the prosecutor, the interpreter). 2) The attorney mentioned that the "vessel" was not properly registered -- the judge then referred to certain documents from the notary officer that, allegedly, proved the opposite. 3) The attorney argued that the platform was "an island", while only a movable object not attached to the sea bed can be considered a vessel -- the judge announced that the request for appeal has been rejected.""
More details of the argument used by Kieron's lawyer, regarding the legal status of the oil platform as a island, not a vessel, can be found here in this Voice of Russia article:
"Bryan's legal team argued that the lower court overlooked the fact that the UK cameraman was not bound by any contracts to Greenpeace, and was present on the Arctic Sunrise as an independent journalist.
His lawyers also said that the environmentalists' actions could not be described as an act of piracy, which suggests an attack on a vessel, because the Prirazlomnaya oilrig is an artificial island, not a vessel."
Voice of Russia also carried this article relating to the letter sent to President Putin by Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_10_11/Putin-not-interfering-in-legal-action-vs-Greenpeace-activists-spokesman-1391/
Putin's spokesman makes it very clear that the President has no influence over the actions and conclusions of the investigative committee.
""Again, the president is not and cannot be responsible for discussing investigative procedures. This is not in the president's competence. Thus, he is unlikely to be involved in any discussion regarding these ongoing investigative procedures," Peskov said."
I have managed to track down most of Russell's many media appearances. Thursday's BBC Radio Five Live interview can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24474851
Thursday's Al-Jazeera English piece is here: http://www.aljazeera.com/video/europe/2013/10/greenpeace-concerned-detained-activists-20131010232614193113.html .
Friday's Radio Five Live appearance, just after bail was refused, can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03c46nj from 1 hr 39 minutes.
ITV coverage can be found here: http://www.itv.com/news/london/story/2013-10-11/greenpeace-activists-refused-bail-russia/
This includes a interview with Harriet Harman in which she expresses her firm support for Kieron. Correspondent Simon Harris does a great job in the studio explaining Kieron's position as a journalist.
Channel 4 News video here,on which the island vs ship argument is touched on:
Channel 5 News:
I have so far been unable to find the Sky News clip from Friday, however I did find this from last week which includes a brief appearance from Andy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MlpVa1k2CI
Peter Willcox, captain of the Arctic Sunrise, has been fined 20,000 rubles for not following coastguard instructions :http://lenta.ru/news/2013/10/09/captain/ (in Russian). Willcox remains imprisoned along with the other twenty-nine.
Canadian newspaper the Toronto Star carried this editorial:
These legal textbooks give more detail about piracy. As you'd expect, it's not light reading.
According to one of these: 'The definition of piracy is somewhat obscured... '. This may all become very relevant depending on the progress of the Dutch legal action.
I have created a page about how to write to Kieron. There are some strict rules about what you can and cannot say, and currently parcels cannot be sent as there are numerous complications with Russian customs and with limits on what can be brought in to the prison. Jess has this to say on the matter:
"Sorry about this [the parcel situation], please do write him letters though, although you will have to type them, translate them and print them which i know is not as personal as a handwritten letter but will still be a huge source of entertainment and comfort for him."
News has come from Cornwall of the Free Kieron Coffee Morning held today in Bude, which was a great success and very well attended. Total raised is currently estimated at £1,600. Thanks for Fran Lovett for organising this. We are working on a method for online donations to the Free Kieron fund - once this is all in place details will be posted here.
Keep spreading the word. The more people that know, the more people that can help to Free Kieron.
Friday, 11 October 2013
Today Kieron was denied bail by the Murmansk court. This was not a surpise; all of the four previous detainees who had had their cases heard had the same judgement handed down to them, including Denis Sinyakov, the freelance photographer.
Video of Kieron's appearance has been released by Greenpeace:
Personally I found this to be an annoyingly unreliable video stream. News sources also covered the bail appearance. ITV News have a number of videos, including Russell on Daybreak this morning, Andy and Ann commenting on the result of the bail hearing, and footage from the courtroom with Russell talking about the result. John Sauven from Greenpeace UK states that Kieron is a journalist and not part of Greenpeace and should be released without charge.
More coverage of the bail hearing is here at the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24488010 and here at Sky News: http://news.sky.com/story/1153207/greenpeace-protest-two-britons-refused-bail
Kieron is quoted as saying "If everyone was arrested for writing an article, journalists would not exist."
The Mirror newspaper (another of Kieron's former employers) today released this article http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/british-journalist-kieron-bryan-faces-2359663
This morning Russell was on Radio 4. Listen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03c46gh from 2 hrs 30 minutes onwards. He was also on Radio 5 Live today, and yesterday. He appeared on ITV News and has been or will be on all of ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky News this evening. As and when these become available online I will link to them.
A petition has been started for journalists to sign to express their support for Kieron. If you are a journalist, please sign the petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/freekieron/ So far it has 982 signatures, including some big names in the UK journalism.
Some slightly odd but encouraging thoughts from Mikhail Fedotov, Vladimir Putin's human rights advisor:
“These charges are laughable because there isn’t the slightest justification for accusing the crew of the Arctic Sunrise of piracy. They might just as well have charged them with gang rape of the platform.”
“I’ve long called for such individuals [the Russian investigators] who cause harm to the country’s reputation to be forced to pay compensation.”
Keep watching your TV or listening to your radio, you'll probably see or hear Russell. Let's all support him, Andy and Ann in their attempts to Free Kieron.
Wednesday, 9 October 2013
Russian Investigative Committee makes additional statement, Guardian coverage, Harriet Harman statement
'part of the equipment [aboard the Arctic Sunrise] is double-purpose and could have been used in the interests of the environmental protection',
'during the examination of the ship the investigators seized narcotics (presumably opium straw and morphine). The specialists are looking into their origin and purpose.' ,
'The investigators are now identifying the people who deliberately rammed the coast guard boats preventing the coast guards from doing their job. By these actions the accused made an attempt on lives and health of the representatives of the authority.'
The full text of the statement can be found here in English: http://en.sledcom.ru/actual/358663/ and in Russian: http://www.sledcom.ru/actual/358647/
Greenpeace have angrily responded, stating that any drugs aboard the vessel are part of the legally mandated medical supplies, that were locked in a safe. There is a strict policy on Greenpeace ships that forbids recreational substances, and the ship underwent a full inspection by Norwegian authorities, including with sniffer dogs, upon arrival in that country before proceeding towards the oil rig.
It would also seem that, given the ship's position outside of Russian territorial waters until its capture, it is irrelevant what narcotic substances were on board. National drug laws do not apply on the high seas.
The organisation also denies that any Greenpeace vessel rammed any of the FSB boats. You may remember that in my opinion piece, written on October 3rd, I mentioned that this was difficult to judge. 'At one point, a Greenpeace inflatable collides with a Russian FSB boat, though it is difficult to tell is this is a deliberate ramming or simply a loss of control in the rough seas.'
The full Greenpeace statement on this issue can be found here: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/Russian-claims-over-boat-ramming-a-fantasy---Greenpeace-International/ This includes a link to a video of the alleged incident.
Greenpeace Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin, offering himself in exchange for the release of the thirty detaineees.
The key line relating to Kieron is this:
'I also respectfully ask that the two independent freelancers, who are not Greenpeace members, be immediately freed.'
The BBC has a summary of these developments here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24461644
It is difficult to say exactly what to make of this news. It is possible to interpret this as a reaction from the Russians in realisation that the piracy charge does not stand up, and they are seeking other reasons to hold the thirty from the ship in custody. A small crumb of comfort can be taken from the last paragraph of the statement:
'Given the information the investigators are getting during the probe, the charges brought against the accused will be corrected. However, it is obvious for the investigators that some of the accused will be charged with other serious crimes.'
A positive reading of this is the piracy charges will be dropped, and the activists who tried to climb the platform and those aboard the inflatable boats that may have rammed the Russian boats will be charged with aggravated trespass and reckless endangerment, or the Russian equivalents.
The Guardian carried coverage of the story today. This arcticle also contains a video interview with Andy and Ann:
It also contains a link to this website!
Foreign Office Minister, David Lidington, updated Parliament on the situation in a written statement today. The BBC covered this news here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24462045 , and the full text of the statement can be found at gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/arrest-of-6-british-nationals-in-russia
The statement contains this line, regarding William Hague's comments on the issue:
'The Foreign Secretary said we would remain in close contact with all other nations whose citizens were involved, and make representations to the Russian authorities if necessary.'
Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, added his support on Twitter. One of the other British detainees, Alex Harris, also has connections to his constituency.
'in touch with Foreign Office and families of Kieron and Alex. Working with Kieron's MP and pushing hard.'
Kieron's MP is Harriet Harman. We saw yesterday that she is fully behind the campaign. Today Harriet released the following statement:
“I strongly believe that my constituent Kieron Bryan should not be in detention in Russia and am calling on the Russians to release him immediately. He is not a criminal or a threat to the Russian state. He is not even a member of Greenpeace; he is a professional journalist working on an assignment for them.
“I have today written to the Russian Ambassador calling on the Russian authorities to release Kieron, asking for them to agree that his parents can visit him in detention, and asking them to help his parents get a visa so they can travel to Murmansk to visit him.
“I am also asking them to allow Kieron’s parents to speak to him on the phone. It is unfair that they have not been able to speak to him during the past 3 weeks.
“I have met his parents and brother. This is an extremely worrying time for Kieron’s family. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare that their child is arrested and held on the other side of the world. I know that the Foreign Secretary and his ministers, the Foreign Office and consular officials are doing everything they can to help Kieron”.
Thanks again to Harriet Harman for her support.
The increasing involvement of the British government is encouraging. Nicholas Milton in the Guardian suggests that the best way to resolve this is through careful diplomacy:
'... the organisation needs to find a way of allowing the Russian authorities to drop the charges without losing face, for example by fining them or making them persona non grata.'
Let's hope William Hague and the UK government can help to achieve this. However it happens, we all want to Free Kieron as soon as possible.
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
News has come from Murmansk that Kieron has been moved to another prison on the night on Monday 7th October. This may be related to the appeals hearings that have now begun. Three of the thirty have now had their appeals for bail heard and denied, including the other journalist Denis Sinyakov. This does not bode well for Kieron. So far the pattern has been that all thirty are treated in exactly the same way by the court. Greenpeace have stated that if these appeals fail they will bring the issue to the European Court of Human Rights.
Kieron's MP Harriet Harman met with the Bryan family today. The BBC reported it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-24448667
Harriet tweeted about the meeting:
"just met parents & brother of my constit Kieron Bryan. he must be freed from detention in Russia & come home @FreeKieron #FreeKieron"
She then followed up with this:
"@Cornishwelsh @FreeKieron wrong of Russians to keep him in detention. I spoke to William Hague about Kieron tonight. He's on it"
This is encouraging news. William Hague, Foreign Secretary, has so far not commented publically on the issue. If you wish to contact Mr Hague to encourage him to help, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . Here is a sample letter which you may wish to use:
I'll end today's update with a moving piece from a friend of Kieron's, Pete Lovett. Pete posted this to Facebook yesterday morning.
"I woke up this morning with a horrible feeling about what it could possibly be like to find yourself in a prison on the northern tip of Russia, separated from people you know, not being able to communicate in your own language and feeling very afraid - of your circumstances and of what the future holds.
Kieron Bryan will be awake already today, Russia are three hours ahead of UK time. I wonder if he slept last night; if he was cold; if he has been given enough food; if he has anyone to talk to; if he is safe.
I can only hope that those boxes are ticked, though it is quite possible, quite imaginable that they aren't. I do know that Kieron will find it in himself to be brave, to keep his chin up and to be hopeful about his future, whatever that might be right now.
And for all of the Arctic 30 who have been charged with a crime they COULD NOT commit it is some comfort to know that there are many, many people who see what is happening as a tragic injustice.
If you haven't yet, then give this news some of your time today, and perhaps think for a moment what it might be like to be in that prison far away from home, however difficult it might be.
PLEASE SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR Kieron Bryan. Share the group, its so easy to do, follow the twitter account @FreeKieron"
Monday, 7 October 2013
The BBC's Daniel Sandford has been to the Prirazlomnaya oil rig. On Sunday night's BBC News at Ten, he filed this report:
On the BBC News website, this more detailed report about the operation of the oil platform also contains additional video:
This morning on the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show the situation was discussed, firstly with Daniel Sandford, and then with Russell, Kieron's brother.
The coverage begins at 30:37 into the show:
It is a little frustrating that the BBC do not always make the distinction that Kieron, and Denis Sinyakov, are journalists and not activists. Daniel Sandford is on Twitter at @BBCDanielS.
On BBC Radio Sheffield, Kieron's friend and fellow journalist Luke Farrington, and his former journalism tutor, Marie Kinsey, from the University of Sheffield, talked about the situation:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01gdwfj (beginning at 38 minutes)
Marie Kinsey very succinctly explains how the imprisonment of journalists is unjust.
On Monday evening's ITV News, this report features Andy and Ann Bryan, as well as containing previously unseen footage of Kieron about to enter court:
Steve Morgan is a photographer who has previous experience of a similar situation involving Greenpeace and Russia. Read his fascinating blog entry here:
The Free Kieron events keep coming. Fran Lovett has organised a coffee morning at the United Reform Church Hall, Killerton Rd, Bude, Cornwall, this Saturday, 12th October, from 10:30 am until 12:30 pm. Bude Coffee Morning on Facebook
A friend of mine who has never met Kieron, but has had to listen to me going on about the case all day at work, was moved to write an opinion piece of his own about the situation:
John Oakley: Regardless of your views on Greenpeace; journalism is not a criminal activity.
It doesn't matter if you know Kieron or not, it is clear that his imprisonment is unjust.
Kieron Bryan is innocent. Free Kieron.
Sunday, 6 October 2013
Simple, yet incredibly powerful. I have added it to the links list.
Also added to the lists is a link to the Greenpeace petition. I would encourage you to sign this but be aware that the default wording does include some references to Arctic drilling. You are free to modify this, in any way you desire, before signing. I only mention this in order to be clear that the Free Kieron campaign does not take any particular stance on the environmental issues. Kieron is a journalist, not a Greenpeace activist.
Nancy Thorburn, Kieron's girlfriend, was interviewed in the Sunday Times today. (http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Environment/article1323849.ece?CMP=OTH-gnws-standard-2013_10_05) As with all Times articles this is not free to read online, but if you look hard enough in the Facebook group you might find a photograph of sufficiently high resolution to read the copy.
Ann, Andy and Russell all appear in this CNN video report on the case: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152468861020283
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty published an interesting article which delves into some of the detail of intentional maritime law at http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-greenpeace-arctic-explainer/25125845.html . As discussed yesterday on this website, the article mentions how the exact position of the Arctic Sunrise could become a key detail in the case, especially in the context of the ongoing Dutch legal action.
Greenpeace have created a profile page for Kieron, which contains the videos he made on the Arctic Sunrise before his detention. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/arctic-impacts/Peace-Dove/Arctic-30/Kieron-Bryan-Profile/
Jess has created some Free Kieron images, a low resolution version for digital use, such as an email signature, and a higher resolution print version.
Digital use / Low res (32 Kb)
Print use / High res (1.42 Mb)
Please use these to spread the word however you can. Here's an example of a Free Kieron supporter's car:
It's been a good weekend for media coverage and campaigning. Every piece of coverage adds pressure to the Russian authorities to reconsider their position. Let's keep the momentum going through the week. We can all help to Free Kieron.
Saturday, 5 October 2013
The new official Twitter account of the campaign, @FreeKieron has some photos and updates from the protest.
Kieron's brother Russell Bryan spoke at the event:
There were plenty of banners and placards expressing support for Kieron, many pointing out that Kieron is a journalist, not a pirate:
Actor Jude Law and Blur frontman Damon Albarn were present at the protest. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/greenpeace-demo-russian-embassy-023127894.html
The protest has generated plenty of media coverage. BBC article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24412408
Andy also appeared on the BBC News Channel at about 9:15 pm as a guest in the studio. He was careful to emphasise Kieron's journalistic status. If video is released of this I will link to it in due course.
Also today, in Kieron's home village of Shebbear, £400 was raised at a coffee morning fundraiser. Thanks to Keith Horwell for organising this event.
Yesterday there was a small ray of hope for the Free Kieron campaign when the Dutch government began formal legal action against Russia. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24395769 . The Arctic Sunrise flies under the Dutch flag.
The government of the Netherlands has applied to the United Nation's Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, based in Hamburg. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it would be difficult for the Russians to ignore this. So far, however, the response has not been hugely encouraging.
"Moscow slammed the Netherlands for not having intervened in the situation earlier.
“Over the last year and a half the Russian side made repeated attempts to contact their Dutch counterparts to intervene in the vessel’s illegal activities”, Russian Foreign Ministry deputy head Aleksey Meshkov told RIA Novosti on Saturday. “Unfortunately, this was not done. Therefore we have significantly more questions for the Dutch side than they can have for us.”
This article also quotes staff working on the oil rig at the centre of the controversy. More can be found here: http://ruptly.tv/vod/view/4556/russia-rig-was-forearmed-to-deal-with-greenpeace-boarding .
"An attempt by Greenpeace to board Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya rig one year ago gave the rig's crew the experience to deal with a second crack by the pressure group last month. Early on the morning of Wednesday, September 18 the rig's captain was informed that Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise vessel was just a few miles away - and that its behaviour was unusual."
The Dutch legal action remains a hugely positive development. The Russian government will need to formally respond in some capacity. There may be some discussion about the exact location of the Arctic Sunrise and the Greenpeace inflatables and if they were in Russia's territorial waters, or the security zone of the oil rig. I have read conflicting information about the exact definition of the security area - whilst there can be no dispute that the Greenpeace inflatable boats were in breach, the Arctic Sunrise's exact status may become significant.
For up-to-the minute updates, follow @FreeKieron on twitter (https://twitter.com/FreeKieron), and 'like' the Free Kieron page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/freekieron). Both of these are linked from this site.
I will continue to update this site as the situation develops. Please spread the word. Let's all help to Free Kieron.
Thursday, 3 October 2013
Deprivation of liberty is more serious than Arctic drilling
Kieron was aboard the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace ship, having been employed by the charity on a short-term contract as a videographer. Also on board was Denis Sinyakov, a freelance photographer, and 28 Greenpeace activists.
After a protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil platform, as part of which two Greenpeace activists attempted to climb the platform, the Russian national security service, the FSB, stormed the Arctic Sunrise and towed it to the port of Murmansk. All 30 people aboard, including Kieron and Denis Sinyakov, have now been charged with piracy, a crime which carries a minimum ten year prison term under Russian law.
Kieron Bryan is a journalist. He is not a member of Greenpeace. He is not an environmental activist. He was contracted by Greenpeace, as he would by by any other entity wishing to use his services as freelance videographer. He is definitely not a pirate.
This site is part of a campaign to free Kieron from Russian custody, given his position as a journalist under contract, and not part of any activity intended to disrupt or interfere with the legal activity of any other organisation or body. He cannot be guilty of piracy, as his presence at the oil rig was for an entirely innocent purpose, that of documenting and reporting. No judgement is made or implied as to the legitimacy or value of the Greenpeace actions or cause. This campaign is about the imprisonment of an innocent journalist, and not environmental issues.
Greenpeace has been campaigning on the issue of oil drilling in the Arctic for sometime. In August 2012, they visited the same oil platform, and successfully climbed aboard. This Youtube video illustrates this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCFFtUiCvAc . Presumably this was the intention of the recent visit to the oil platform.
On September 18th, 2013, two Greenpeace activists attempted to climb the oil rig again, and were captured by Russian security forces. They are held aboard a Russian coastguard ship.
The next day, September 19th, FSB personnel board the Arctic Sunrise, and detain the crew in the mess hall. The ship is then towed to Murmansk, which takes five days. As the ship approaches Murmansk, a picture is released by Greenpeace, giving our first view of Kieron since the ship was seized.
Kieron is on the left in the red jacket. When this picture was first issued it was a relief to see that Kieron was unharmed, if looking a little glum - understandable in the circumstances.
All thirty aboard the ship are then moved to a detention facility. At some point in this process, Kieron is able to call his parents to reassure them that he is in good health.
On Thursday, September 26th, preliminary court hearings begin. The courthouse has seen better days:
It becomes clear fairly early on that the majority of the thirty are being detained for two months without bail pending an investigation into piracy. Kieron's case is one of the last to be heard. Before he faces the judge, Greenpeace release the following message on Twitter: "We just received a txt from UK videographer pending hearing in the court: "What's the score of Tottenham of British Prime League?" ( https://twitter.com/gp_sunrise/status/383280566432317440 )
Tottenham Hotspur FC can be certain that Kieron's support of the club runs pretty deep.
On Thursday evening, the update comes that we were all expecting, but hoping against:
"UPDATE: UK freelance videographer, Kieron Bryan, to be held in custody for 2 months pending piracy investigation" (https://twitter.com/gp_sunrise/status/383300069388070912)
Sinyakov, the freelance photographer, had been given the same judgement much earlier in the day, and his case had attracted some media attention. The next day, Kieron's similar situation begins to filter through.
Reporters Without Borders help to spread the word with this article:
Some of the Greenpeace activists had been told to return in three days to the court. On Sunday 29th, all of these activists were given the same judgement as the others. It appears that the reason for the second hearing of these activists was a delay in translation. This lenta.ru article describes Sunday's activities in more detail (in Russian, but Google Translate does a passable job): http://lenta.ru/articles/2013/09/29/murmansk/
At this point, it was not at all clear how long we would have to wait for the next update. It turned out to be three days. On the morning of Wednesday 2nd October, this tweet from Greenpeace appeared:
"UPDATE: Crew member Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel from Brazil and freelance videographer Kieron Bryan from UK charged with piracy." (https://twitter.com/gp_sunrise/status/383300069388070912)
By the end of Thursday 3rd, all thirty people who were aboard the Arctic Sunrise had been charged with piracy. If convicted, they face a custodial sentence of ten to fifteen years. Kieron Bryan is not a criminal. Kieron Bryan is not a pirate. Kieron Bryan is not even an activist. Kieron Bryan is a journalist.
Kieron Bryan is innocent.
Free Kieron Bryan.