By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has decided to step in and increase diplomatic pressure to free jailed Brazilian activist, Ana Paula Maciel, a biologist who was taken into custody in Russia for participating in an international NGO Greenpeace protest at sea against oil drilling in the Arctic.
Rousseff pledged to support the activist via social network, Twitter. “I determined that the Ministry of External Relations will give all assistance needed to Brazilian Ana Paula Maciel, who has been held in Russia due to an environmental protest. I asked Minister Figuereido [to establish] a high-level contact with the Russian government to find a solution for Ana Paula.”
Itamaraty – Brazil’s Foreign Ministry – will therefore join the governments of the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand, all of which are pressing for the release of the protesters. The Dutch government has taken the lead in the negotiations and is even seeking to sue Russia before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
On October 2nd, Maciel and 27 fellow activists, as well as two journalists, who had been jailed since September 19th, were formally accused of piracy by a Russian court. Piracy carries a punishment of up to fifteen years in prison.
Yesterday, Russian investigators claimed that more charges against the group will be filed, as they allege they found drugs on board the activists’ vessel and double-use material. These accusations were dismissed by Greenpeace, which claims that the captain of the ship carried morphine for medical reasons and that all other charges are “pure invention.”
Greenpeace holds frequent protests against drilling for oil in the Arctic and accuses Russia of endangering the environmentally fragile area with its exploration. A day prior to the arrests, Greenpeace tried to occupy Russian oil giant Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora Sea, the first offshore oil rig in the Arctic.
As a response, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) stormed the Greenpeace vessel “Arctic Sunrise,” which was in international waters at that time and therefore off limits, according to Greenpeace, and detained the crew of the ship, made up of people from eighteen countries, including the U.S., Brazil, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands and Finland. Russia justified the action by citing “national interest” and the “provoking and life-risking” behavior of the environmentalists.
The arrests prompted protests against the Russian government in several countries. In Brazil, Greenpeace and its supporters held a demonstration in front of the Russian embassy in Brasília and in São Paulo. In Switzerland, Greenpeace even interrupted a Champions League football (soccer) game between German side Schalke and Swiss team Basel to protest against Gazprom, sponsor of the Germans.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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