Greenpeace denies 'Arctic 30' group were ill-prepared

Kieron Bryan: "Being trapped in a cell for 24 hours a day is something I don't ever want to experience again"

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A senior Greenpeace official has denied that a group held in a Russian jail after a protest against oil-drilling in the Arctic were ill-prepared.

Director of Greenpeace UK John Sauven said everyone was fully briefed before the operation and argued that Russian authorities overreacted.

Five Britons were among 29 bailed on Friday after two months in jail.

Video journalist Kieron Bryan said there was laughter when a pre-trip briefing mentioned piracy charges.

Start Quote

I can't express what a shock it was to everyone - we all thought that we would get a rap on the wrists and be sent away”

End Quote Kieron Bryan Freelance video journalist

Mr Bryan, 29, from London, was filming the activists and was among those bailed after a UN maritime tribunal ordered their release.

When asked if he would go on another trip of this kind, Mr Bryan said: "There has to be an honest discussion and I would love to part of that discussion with Greenpeace about what happens in the future.

"It was my first trip, so it was a baptism of fire."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the 24 hours since his release had been "incredible" and "some of the best" of his life.

Of his imprisonment, the freelance video journalist said: "No-one could believe what was happening. We discussed the legal implications of doing a protest in Russia and I remember distinctly piracy being mentioned and the laughter that followed.

"I can't express what a shock it was to everyone. We all thought that we would get a rap on the wrists and be sent away. So, to find ourselves facing 10 to 15 years was a very difficult time."

But Mr Sauven said the Greenpeace ship was "seized illegally in international waters".

"The charges of piracy are utterly absurd," he told the Today programme.

"This was an entirely peaceful protest. These charges are absurd and they should be dropped."

When asked about whether Greenpeace intended to send another ship in to the Arctic, he said: "We have no plans to do that, but what I would say is that if people are going to be silenced or intimidated when half the oil spills in the world happen in Russia, should we be silent?

"Should we be intimidated? Should journalists not report that and expose what is going on?"

Hooliganism and piracy

The crew of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise, hailing from 16 countries, were arrested by the Russian authorities on 18 September on hooliganism charges following a protest at an Arctic offshore oil rig.

They originally faced piracy charges.

In total, 29 of the 30 detainees have been granted bail and the majority released from custody.

Those freed on bail include the ship's US captain, Peter Willcox; Canadian Paul Ruzycki; the Netherlands' Faiza Oulahsen and Mannes Ubels; Switzerland's Marco Weber; Argentina's Miguel Orsi; and New Zealand's Jonathan Beauchamp.

Bail has also been approved for Philip Ball from Oxford, Ukraine's Ruslan Yakushev, Gizem Akhan from Turkey, and Canadian Alexandre Paul but there has been no news on their release.

Greenpeace has said Mr Ball might not be released until Monday, but it could not be certain.

One detainee, Australian radio operator Colin Russell, has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention until 24 February. Greenpeace is lodging an appeal.

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