Thursday, April 24, 2014
An American Greenpeace activist married to a woman from Islesboro has been granted bail by Russian authorities after being arrested two months ago during a protest at an Arctic oil rig.
Peter Willcox appeared before a Russian court Wednesday and was told he could be released from jail if he posts two million rubles, or about $61,000, according to a statement from Greenpeace International.
Willcox is the captain of the Dutch flagged Arctic Sunrise, which was seized Sept. 18 during a protest against Russian oil drilling in the Arctic. Russian officials arrested Willcox, 27 other protesters and two journalists.
Willcox is married to Maggy Willcox, publisher of the Islesboro Island News, though he still lives in his native Connecticut.
“I’m relieved and I’m grateful that his living conditions are about to improve, but the charges still stand and the investigation continues” she said by telephone Wednesday. “It’s not over yet.”
Maggy Willcox watched the bail proceedings, which started at 2 a.m. local time, live on the Internet until the signal was lost. She did not know until later that her husband had been granted bail.
“I saw Peter for 10 minutes, which was just wonderful to just actually see him,” she said. “He looks like me. He looks older and more tired than when this all started but he looks OK.”
Peter Willcox is one of 17 activists granted bail this week – the first was freed on Wednesday. Bail hearings for other activists are pending. One, an Australian, has been denied bail.
All of those detained were initially charged with piracy, but investigators later reduced the charges to hooliganism, which carries a prison term of up to seven years.
Greenpeace said Willcox and the others who remain jailed are unlikely to be released before this weekend because of bureaucratic issues.
Even then, he won’t be free to leave the country because his passport was confiscated when he and the others were arrested near a Gazprom oil rig off the northwest coast of Russia Sept. 18. Greenpeace and the American consulate assured Russian authorities that Willcox would have somewhere to stay while awaiting future court proceedings, she said.
Activist Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel walked out of a St. Petersburg pre-trial jail holding a sign reading “Save The Arctic.” She did not speak with journalists before getting into a car with her lawyer.
Dmitry Artamonov, a Greenpeace representative, said she is “now staying in a safe place,” but he declined to give her location.
Greenpeace’s protest was to draw attention to Russian oil drilling in the Arctic, which the group says is a threat to the fragile ecosystem.
Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford issued a statement Wednesday that read:
“We’re thrilled that Peter has been granted bail, but we know his ordeal is far from over. Justice will be served only when Peter and the Arctic 30 are truly free from these farcical charges and we will continue working on their behalf to make that happen as soon as possible.”