Regardless of your views on Greenpeace; journalism is not a criminal activity.

John Oakley

I do not hold any particularly strong views either in favour or against what Greenpeace do and by my own admission there are many who are far more informed about both Arctic oil drilling and maritime law than I. Even so I feel compelled to comment on the situation involving the boarding of the Arctic Sunrise and subsequent arrest of the 30 people on board including Kieron Bryan.

From my position of relative ignorance it seems sensible to suggest that drilling for oil in the middle of the Arctic sea, thousands of miles from replacement parts and safety equipment, might be considered, to put it lightly, a tad dangerous. I applaud people that are prepared to stand up and fight for environmental issues when governments and businesses operate with scant regard for the world we all have to share.

I’ve never met Kieron Bryan, I’m not a journalist and I have no particular affinity with him or any of the other 29 people currently held in a Russian prison facing charges of piracy. I am a passive observer.

I am interested in the actual location of the Arctic Sunrise at the time of the boarding. If they were indeed in international waters and therefore outside the jurisdiction of the Russian coastguards/navy then the only charge they can levy against the crew is piracy. I would hazard a guess that had the Russians been able to board the ship in their own territory we would be seeing a more reasonable charge in line with the actions of the crew. I believe that they may have shot themselves in the only leg they had to stand on by taking the Arctic Sunrise illegally.

I therefore find it extremely worrying that the Russian judicial system is entertaining charges of piracy against a group of unarmed demonstrators, 2 journalists and general crew members. The two people who scaled the rig and were subsequently arrested are surely guilty of trespass and no more. They knew that they were undertaking an illegal activity and would have expected to face fair consequences if arrested. It is very difficult to take the leap of imagination that takes you from the actions carried out by the activists to piracy. To my mind the charges are totally bonkers and should be dropped immediately. Even more ludicrously, Kieron, a freelance videographer faces a potential 15 prison sentence for piracy. It seems that a camera might be considered a more dangerous weapon than an AK47.

 Regardless of your views on Greenpeace; journalism is not a criminal activity. Kieron and the other 29 on the Arctic Sunrise posed no threat to anyone, except in attempting to highlight issues that Gazprom would not really want highlighting.

I hope the Russian government sees sense and send these guys home soon.