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Russia court grants bail to several Greenpeace activists

The Primorsky Court in St. Petersburg granted bail on Tuesday to seven Greenpeace International [advocacy website] activists awaiting trial on charges of hooliganism [AP report]. The activists, who may be released on bail [ABC report], are from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Italy, New Zealand and Poland. Bail was set at 2 million rubles (approximately USD $61,500) and must be paid within four days if release is to be granted. Judges have not yet said whether the activists will be permitted to leave Russia while out on bail but have previously expressed concern that the activists posed a flight risk. The activists are a part of a group of 30 prisoners who were detained after trying to board an oil rig, and were originally charged with piracy, though those charges have since been dropped. The typical punishment for hooliganism is a fine. Courts have released three Russian activists, and denied the release of an Australian. Nineteen prisoners are awaiting the decisions on their bail. On Monday, Russia ordered that one the activists be detained for three months [JURIST report] before the trial, which is expected to occur in February, though no date has been set.

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 (HRW) [advocacy website, press release], 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.

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