Dear Foreign Secretary
I write in regard to my friend Kieron Bryan, a freelance videographer, who has just been charged with piracy by a Russian court over his role in the peaceful protest on board the Greenpeace ship the Arctic sunrise. If he is convicted, he could face a prison sentence of a maximum of 15 years. As a freelance videographer contracted by Greenpeace to document the protest, he is innocent of all charges and his detention by the Russian authorities represents a grave breach of journalist freedom in that country and a threat to other UK journalists travelling there, as well as raising human rights issues.
The British government must act now and send a message to Russia that it's behaviour in this matter has been totally unacceptable. If this does not happen, an innocent man will suffer, as will the freedom of journalists everywhere.
Below are the details of the events leading to Kieron's arrest and detention:
On the morning of Wednesday 18 September two activists from Greenpeace International were arrested as they took peaceful action against Gazprom’s off-shore oil platform Prirazlomnaya, to bring attention to oil drilling operations in the Arctic waters of the Pechora Sea.
The following day, September 19, the Russian Coast Guard illegally boarded the Greenpeace International ship MY Arctic Sunrise while in international waters. 30 activists were then held under armed guard for 5 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.
On October 2, Kieron Bryan and others were charged with piracy by the court in Murmansk.
Several international organisations have condemned the Russian authorities' actions:
Amnesty International said 'The “piracy” charge levelled against activists from the global environmental group Greenpeace today in Russia is absurd and damaging to the rule of law and must be dropped immediately'.
A spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders said: 'Kieron Bryan has worked in the past for two British newspapers, The Times and The Mirror, and for California-based Current TV, but has been working as a freelance reporter and filmmaker since January. Like Sinyakov [the Russian journalist also detained], he was on the Arctic Sunrise not as a Greenpeace activist but in order to document its activities and provide reports to the international media.' The organisations have also called for the charges to be dropped.
I look forward to hearing the course of action which the British government plans to take in order to support Kieron Bryan and the other British nationals held in Russia and bring about their release.
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