Charges against 'Arctic 30' dropped

New Zealand activist David Haussmann. Photo / Greenpeace International
New Zealand activist David Haussmann. Photo / Greenpeace International
Charges against 29 Greenpeace activists, including two New Zealanders, who faced prison in Russia have been dropped following a Kremlin amnesty.

A Greenpeace spokesman in St Petersburg said the case against the remaining activist, Italian Cristian D'Alessandro, was expected to be dropped at a hearing later today.

The 'Arctic 30' were arrested three months ago over a protest against oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. They faced seven years in jail under hooliganism charges.

The environmental group said it had been asked to attend a meeting at Russia's investigative committee, where the criminal case against 29 of them were "dropped en masse".

However, the group of 28 activists and two freelance journalists have one more hurdle to jump before they can leave the country - securing exit visas.

"Because they never thought they would come into Russia they didn't have Russian visas, so they need some paperwork to enable them to leave the country," a Greenpeace NZ spokesman said.

"Our lawyers tell us it should be sorted out within the next few days. We're not anticipating any problems with that."

The two Kiwis in the group - David Haussmann and Jon Beauchamp - are "very keen to get home", the spokesman said.

"Overall it's kind of a mixture of relief and an urgency to get home and spend time with their loved ones."

In a statement, Arctic Sunrise skipper Peter Willcox said: "This is the day we've been waiting for since our ship was boarded by armed commandos more than three months ago.

"I'm pleased and relieved the charges have been dropped, but we should not have been charged at all."

The Arctic 30 have been living in a St Petersburg hotel since being bailed nearly five weeks ago.

They were freed under a new amnesty rule, which also saw two jailed members of punk band Pussy Riot walk free earlier this week.

 

- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ

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