Friday, October 4, 2013
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Canada
Embassy of the Federation of Russia
285 Charlotte Street, Ottawa, ON, K1N 8L5
I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non- governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. CJFE is concerned by the arrest and detention of activists from Greenpeace International including journalists who were engaged in disseminating information to the public both in Canada and abroad.
As you know, on the morning of September 18, two activists from Greenpeace International were arrested as they attempted to take peaceful action against Gazprom's off-shore oil platform Prirazlomnaya, to stop the company conducting oil drilling operations in the Arctic waters of the Pechora Sea.
The following day, September 19, the Russian Coast Guard boarded the Greenpeace International ship MY Arctic Sunrise while in international waters. Thirty of the activists were then held under armed guard for five days while the ship was towed to the port of Murmansk. Upon arrival, the activists were taken from the ship and held by authorities on land.
On September 26, the 30 activists appeared at a preliminary court hearing in Murmansk, where most activists were remanded in custody for two months, facing investigation for possible piracy.
We agree with President Putin who has said he did not believe the activists were pirates. The act of locking up peaceful protesters in this manner is clearly not merited and designed to discourage bringing matters of legitimate of international public interest to the attention of the public.
Greenpeace International was in the Russian Arctic to bear witness and express non-violent opposition towards oil companies' destructive and reckless oil drilling plans.
We ask that you:
- Immediately release the 30 activists who have been detained by Russian authorities in Murmansk.
- Ensure the activists have access to full legal representation of their own choice, consular services, translators, and human rights inspectors, during their detention.
- Prioritise investigation into the intimidation of peaceful protesters.
CJFE urges you to convey these requests to the Russian government in Moscow immediately to assist in the swift release of the activists from the custody of the Russian authorities, and put an end to the unwarranted aggression and repression of peaceful protest.
We thank you for your attention and look forward to your reply.
CJFE Board member and Chair of the Canadian Issues committee