Greenpeace holds vigils for activists jailed in Russia

Vigils organized by Greenpeace to protest the detention of 30 of its members in a Russian jail will be held tonight in downtown Montreal, and tomorrow in Toronto.

Vigils planned for 48 countries around the world

Russian coast guard officers boarded Arctic Sunrise on Sept. 19, arresting 30 Greenpeace activists from 18 different countries. (Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace)

Vigils organized by Greenpeace to protest the detention of 30 of its members in a Russian jail will be held tonight in downtown Montreal, and tomorrow in Toronto.

Alexandre Paul, a Montreal native, was one of the people arrested on Sept. 19 when the Russian coast guard stormed Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship.

He, along with the entire crew, are facing possible 15-year jail sentences if convicted of the piracy charges that were laid this week.

Another Canadian, Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ont., was also charged.

Alexandre Paul of Montreal, was a deckhand aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. (Jiri Rezac/Greenpeace)

They’re currently in jail in Murmansk, Russia, where they await their fates.

The arrests came a day after two members of the crew allegedly tried to scale the Arctic’s first offshore oil platform, in the Prirazlomnaya oil field in the Pechora Sea.

The rig is owned by Gazprom, a Russian state-controlled energy company.

The group of Greenpeace activists were aboard the Arctic Sunrise ship protesting offshore drilling in the Arctic.

Demonstrations planned in 48 countries

Vigils demanding the prisoners' release are planned across the globe this weekend.

Greenpeace said it was holding up to 100 protests in about 48 countries this weekend to call on Russia to free the group.

In London, approximately 700 people demonstrated outside the Russian embassy. Six British people are among those arrested in Russia.

Elsewhere this week, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said he would file a lawsuit to recover the Arctic Sunrise ship, which is registered in the Netherlands. Greenpeace International is headquartered in Amsterdam, as well.

"I feel responsible for the ship and its crew because it's a ship that sails under the Dutch flag," he told reporters in The Hague, Netherlands on Friday.

Greenpeace lawyer Jasper Teulings told the Associated Press this week that he hoped other countries whose citizens were among those arrested would join the Netherlands in pressuring the Russian government.

The group is composed of 28 activists and two journalists from 18 different countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Britain, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States.

"Our ship was illegally detained in international waters following a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling and we hope that other states, especially the countries whose nationals are among the detained, will support the Netherlands in this commendable initiative," said Teulings.

Activist's father is worried

Alexandre Paul’s father Raymond said he’s worried about the seriousness of the piracy charges.

He said his son had been detained once before in his 15 years of activism with Greenpeace, but only for a couple of days.

Raymond Paul is the father of Alexandre, who has been detained in a Russian jail since Sept. 19. (CBC)

“I’m panicking a little bit,” he said.

He and Paul’s mother, Nicole, haven’t been able to speak with him since he was arrested, though they’ve spoken with Greenpeace officials to get what little information they have.

Instead, they sit at home, scouring the Internet for updates.

They said that, though they may not agree with his politics or approach, they stand behind their son.

"I'm not 100 per cent thinking the same thing as he does  It's a passion for him," Raymond said.

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press


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