Moscow (AFP) – A Russian court has remanded in custody all 30 crew members of a Greenpeace protest ship over a high seas protest against oil drilling, the group said on Friday, vowing to appeal.
The Lenin district court in the northern city of Murmansk ruled that 22 crew members will remain in pre-trial detention for two months during the investigation into alleged piracy over the September 18 protest at a state-owned oil platform.
The other eight from Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise icebreaker face new hearings on Monday after judges ruled that they needed further information.
The court concluded marathon hearings into the 30 crew members of Greenpeace's ship early on Monday. The activists, 26 of them foreign nationals, will now be held in jail.
Russian investigators have accused the Greenpeace activists of piracy after two of them tried to scale state energy giant Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea.
Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said the environmental group would appeal the detentions.
"We will not be intimidated, we will appeal these detentions, and together we will prevail," he said in a statement.
Several Russian news websites, including that of NTV national television channel blacked out all their photographs on Friday in protest at the two-month detention of photographer Denis Sinyakov, a former staff photographer at AFP and Reuters who was working for Greenpeace as a freelancer.
"Denis Sinyakov's being accused of piracy and his preliminary detention for two months will probably become a precedent in the history of Russian journalism," Vedomosti business daily warned in an editorial.
Greenpeace said that a British videographer, Kieron Bryan, was also among those detained for two months.
The group said that the foreigners were given "inadequate translation" during the court proceedings.
The court's decision came despite President Vladimir Putin saying on Wednesday of the activists that "of course they are not pirates."
Investigators in court said that the activists had committed piracy by trying to seize property with threats of violence.
The spokesman for the Investigative Committee, which probes major cases in Russia said Thursday that during the course of the investigation the charge against the group could be reduced to a less serious one.