Russia keeps Greenpeace ship captain behind bars
A Russian court on Monday rejected bail requests from the captain of a Greenpeace ship and a young female Argentinian activist involved in a protest against oil drilling in the Russian Arctic.
A court in the northern region of Murmansk where the 30 crew members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise are being held ruled that the ship's captain Pete Willcox, 60, and Camila Speziale, 21, should not be released.
Willcox is one of the most prominent of the activists detained as he is a veteran Greenpeace campaigner who also captained the ship Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed by French secret agents in New Zealand in 1985.
The Greenpeace crew have been held in Murmansk for almost three weeks after their Dutch-flagged ship was seized by Russian security forces in a commando-style operation in Arctic waters.
Two of its activists had climbed on to an oil platform owned by energy giant Gazprom to protest its drilling in a sensitive Arctic environment which Greenpeace says risks environmental catastrophe.
The Russian authorities have now charged all 30 crew with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years. The so-called "Arctic 30" have been placed in pre-trial detention until November 24.
Last week the same court turned down bail requests from two British activists among the Arctic 30.
Russian news agencies quoted Willcox as saying during a break in his hearing on Monday that he had many regrets and if he could start again, would have stayed in New York rather than embarking on the Arctic voyage.
He also said he was suffering from heart problems.
"I'm innocent and I do not understand what I'm accused of," Greenpeace quoted Speziale as saying in court Monday.
"I don't have anything against your country. Russia and Argentina have good relations. But now I'm arrested for something I haven't done. I really want to come back to my country and continue working and studying," she added.
With the saga showing no sign of nearing a rapid end, investigators said last week that "narcotic substances" had been found on the ship and several more activists would face new charges.