A Russian court on Wednesday released on bail the captain of a Greenpeace International [advocacy website] ship, one of the last activists awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism [AP report] in St. Petersburg. Captain Peter Willcox was granted bail two months after he was arrested for his involvement in a Greenpeace protest. Seven activists were released [JURIST report] Tuesday. The Greenpeace activists were staging a protest against Arctic oil drilling at a Russian fixed gas platform. A UN court on Friday will decide whether Russia has jurisdiction over the case.
Last month the Dutch government asked [JURIST report] the UN-backed International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) [official website] to order Russia to return the activists and their ship. Russia's treatment of the activists has drawn criticism from rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, as well as from other countries. During the plenary session of the Third International Arctic Forum held in Salekhard in September, Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] acknowledged [RT report] that the activists were not pirates but noted that their actions in trying to take over the Prirazlomnaya were a violation of international law which could have resulted in an oil spill or other dangers to public lives and health. Putin further stated that Greenpeace members could have attended the Arctic Forum and voiced their concerns at that time.