Russia: 'Hooliganism' charges in Greenpeace case should be dropped

The 'hooliganism' charges newly levelled against crew members involved in last month’s Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise protest in Russian waters are inappropriate and should be dropped, Amnesty International said today.

‘The piracy charges originally brought in this case were patently absurd - but these new charges are no better’
John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director

In a statement yesterday, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee said that it was dropping the piracy charges originally brought against the activists and replacing them with charges of “hooliganism”, which carry a maximum sentence in Russian law of seven years’ imprisonment.

Under Russia’s Criminal Code, hooliganism charges can only be brought against those using weapons to commit gross violations of public order on the grounds of hatred for a particular racial, ethnic, religious or social group. The provision is vague and open to abuse, and Amnesty believes it should not be applied in this case.

The 'hooliganism' charge was also brought against members of the Russian punk protest band Pussy Riot last year. Amnesty campaigned against the application of the charge in their case and considers the two Pussy Riot members currently serving a two-year prison sentence in labour camps to be prisoners of conscience.

'The piracy charges originally brought in this case were patently absurd - but these new charges are no better.

'Hooliganism is a serious criminal offence in Russia, and it is not one that those engaging in peaceful protest should be prosecuted under.

'The Arctic 30 activists must be released immediately and the Russian authorities must halt their ill-founded attempts to criminally prosecute them. The Russian authorities have an ulterior motive behind their repeated attempts to use criminal charges, when, under Russian law, only administrative offences might apply to the detained Greenpeace activists.'
John Dalhuisen

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