Greenpeace Arctic: Russia bails captain and Britons

Alex Harris: "It's been the hardest two months of my life"

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The captain and three Britons from on board the seized Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise have been granted bail by a court in northern Russia.

Peter Willcox previously captained Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior ship when it was blown up by French agents in harbour in New Zealand in 1985.

The UK's Alex Harris, Kieron Bryan and Anthony Perrett were bailed as were two Dutch nationals, a Swiss and a Dane.

In all 20 of the 30 detainees have been bailed, with one actually released.

Ana Paula Maciel, from Brazil, emerged smiling from her prison in St Petersburg, holding a card which read "Save the Arctic". She had had her bail approved on Tuesday.

Greenpeace spokesperson Niall Sookoo told the BBC News website he was still trying to establish whether the conditions of her release allowed her to leave Russia.

He added that he expected other detainees to be released within days, as Russian legal procedures were followed.

The thirty were detained on charges of hooliganism after taking part in a protest at an Arctic offshore oil rig operated by the Russian company Gazprom.

This case has been unpredictable from the start, when the Russian reaction was far stronger than Greenpeace expected, the BBC's Daniel Sandford reports from the court.

Application rejected

Dutch nationals Faiza Oulahsen and Mannes Ubels were also granted bail on Wednesday. It was later announced that Swiss activist Marco Weber and Anne Mie Roer Jensen from Denmark had had their applications approved too.

In addition to Ms Paula Maciel, eight other foreign detainees and three Russians were granted bail earlier. However, it was denied to Australian activist Colin Russell.

Three other British activists will have their hearings later this week.

Ana Paula Maciel (left) after her release from prison in St Petersburg, 20 November Ana Paula Maciel is the first detainee to be actually released on bail.
Arctic Sunrise captain Peter Willcox in court in St Petersburg, Russia, 20 November Arctic Sunrise captain Peter Willcox is a Greenpeace veteran.

If found guilty they face up to seven years in prison.

Bryan was on the ship as a freelance journalist and videographer.

Ms Harris, 27, who acted as communications officer on the ship, is originally from Devon.

Her father, Cliff Harris, told BBC News it was "fantastic" that his daughter was being bailed. It was still unclear what conditions would be attached to bail, he said.

"It's fantastic to see the sheer delight on her face because you could see how stressed she was," he added.

"She is an emotional girl but I think she held it together really well."

Mr Harris said the family were prepared to go to Russia if Ms Harris was obliged to remain there.

In a letter from prison to a fellow Greenpeace activist in October, quoted by the Torquay Herald Express, the activist wrote: "I dream of the outside world a lot. When I wake I'm sleeping with steel bars digging into my back, facing the same four green walls I've faced for 25 days. That's the hardest time of the day.

Kieron Bryan's brother, Russell: "Until that process is dropped... the uncertainty will still be there"

"Despite everything that has happened I don't hate Russia, I just want to go home."

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace in the UK, said: "Although this process is a long way from being resolved, today's decision by the court to grant bail to Alex will come as a huge relief to her family and friends. Our focus now will be to get the remaining activists released."

"The Arctic 30 still face absurd charges for peacefully protesting against oil drilling in the Arctic," the Greenpeace official added.

The Dutch foreign ministry says the bail ruling for Ms Oulahsen was a positive development.

The eight other people bailed on Tuesday were named as: Miguel Orsi (Argentina), Camila Speziale (Argentina), Paul Ruzycki (Canada), Sini Saarela (Finland), Francesco Pisanu (France), Cristian D'Alessandro (Italy), David Haussman (New Zealand) and Tomasz Dziemianczuk (Poland).

On Monday, Russian national Yekaterina Zaspa, who served as medical crew on the ship, was bailed along with photographer Denis Sinyakov and activist Andrey Allakhverdov.

Bail of 2m roubles ($61,000, £38,000) was stipulated for each detainee.

Mr Russell, 59, who acted as the ship's radio operator, was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention until 24 February.

Saying it was "baffled" by the decision, Greenpeace said it would appeal and hoped Mr Russell would be given bail like the others.

A spokesperson for Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she was concerned about his case and monitoring it closely, the Canberra Times reports.

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