Russian authorities have decided to drop piracy charges against the first of 30 people accused of taking part in a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic.
The man has been identified as Anthony Perrett from Newport in Wales, who is now preparing to leave Russia.
He was in the group of 28 activists and two freelance journalists arrested in September as they staged a protest at a Russian offshore oil rig.
They were all charged with hooliganism – but have all been freed on bail.
They are being granted amnesty under a new Russian law which has seen several high-profile releases in recent days.
Greenpeace said on Tuesday that one man from the “Arctic 30” group had been told his case was now closed, and that others were expected to receive notice soon.
The statement did not name the man.
An earlier report saying that three people had been notified for release was later corrected.
Anthony Perrett was in the group of 28 Greenpeace activists arrested after they staged a protest at a Russian offshore oil rig
Twenty-six of the group are foreigners – six of them Britons – and Greenpeace said they would be free to leave Russia once they had the right stamps in their passports.
“We know that getting those stamps would be the best Christmas present for the Arctic 30 and we hope it can happen quickly, but until such time as they do, we still cannot say when they will leave,” it said in a statement.
The detainees, from 16 different countries, had sailed to an oil rig operated by Russia’s state-run energy company Gazprom in September.
They were intercepted by Russian coastguards, who fired warning shots as some activists tried to climb on board the rig.
Their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, was seized.
The group was initially charged with piracy but the charges were later reduced to hooliganism.
They denied the charges, saying their protest had been peaceful and legal.
The Russian amnesty law was passed last week by the State Duma and could see the release of some 20,000 people.
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The detained captain of Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and other two British activists 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 harbor in New Zealand in 1985.
Britons Alex Harris and Kieron Bryan were also bailed along with Dutch national Faiza Oulahsen.
Nine other foreign detainees and three Russians were granted bail earlier.
A third Briton, Anthony Perrett, is also hoping for a decision on Wednesday while three other British activists will have their bail hearings later this week.
Of the 13 detainees who appeared in court earlier this week all but one were given bail.
Peter Willcox, the captain the seized Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, has been granted bail by a court in northern Russia
Australian activist Colin Russell, 59, who acted as the ship’s radio operator, was ordered to remain in pre-trial detention until February 24.
Greenpeace said it was “baffled” why he had been kept in custody for another three months while a spokesperson for Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said she was concerned about his case and monitoring it closely, the Canberra Times reports.
The detainees have been held on charges of hooliganism after taking part in a protest at an Arctic offshore oil rig operated by the Russian company Gazprom.
If found guilty they face up to seven years in prison.
Kieron Bryan was on the ship as a freelance journalist and videographer.
Alex Harris, 27, acted as communications officer on the ship.
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.
“Despite everything that has happened I don’t hate Russia, I just want to go home.”
The Dutch foreign ministry says the bail ruling for Faiza Oulahsen was a positive development.
Nine people bailed on Tuesday were named as: Miguel Orsi (Argentina), Camila Speziale (Argentina), Ana Paula Maciel (Brazil), 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 2 million roubles ($61,000) was stipulated for each detainee.
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Piracy charges against 30 Greenpeace activists will be replaced with hooliganism charges, according to Russian officials.
The new charge has a maximum penalty of seven years rather than 15, Russian news website Lenta reports.
The Arctic Sunrise ship was seized more than four weeks ago by Russian security forces after activists tried to scale an offshore oil platform.
All 30 people on board – including two freelance journalists – were detained.
So far all bail applications in the case have been refused.
Vladimir Markin, the head of Russia’s main investigating agency the Investigative Committee, told Russian news agencies that the charges had been reclassified.
Piracy charges against 30 Greenpeace activists will be replaced with hooliganism charges
Last week, 11 Nobel prize-winners wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging him to drop the charges of piracy.
The presidential press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said the president had no power to influence the courts.
Vladimir Putin said last month that the activists had violated international law but it was “absolutely evident that they are, of course, not pirates”.
Greenpeace Russian programme director, Ivan Blokov, told Russia’s Interfax news agency that there was no case for either piracy or hooliganism charges.
“There are no signs of hooliganism – no violence, no threat of using violence or any damage to property,” he said.
Ivan Blokov added that he was surprised the Russian government had earlier refused to attend international court hearings in Germany over the detentions.
The Netherlands took the case of the Dutch-flagged ship and its crew to the UN tribunal in Hamburg on Monday.
The Russian foreign ministry released a statement pointing out that Moscow had opted out of UN Law of the Sea dispute procedures, which infringe upon sovereignty, in 1997.
All 30 people on board the ship, including 28 activists, have been in custody in the northern port city of Murmansk and complain of being held in harsh conditions,
They were detained when Russian security sources stormed the ship following a protest against drilling for oil in the Arctic.
Greenpeace denies any wrongdoing and is calling for the release of the detainees, who come from 18 countries, and their ship, the Arctic Sunrise.
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