The Exeter maritime engineer imprisoned by Russian authorities for being part of a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic, has written to Prime Minister David Cameron from his jail cell, calling on his help.
Iain Rogers, 37, from Countess Wear is one of 30 people, including six Britons, being detained in the northern city of Murmansk charged with piracy.
The activists from the environmental charity were protesting against one of Russia’s largest oil companies, Gazprom, which was about to start drilling in the sea. They are opposed to what they claim are “dangerous” Arctic oil drilling practices.
They have been detained since September 18, when the charity’s ship, the Arctic Sunrise was boarded by armed members of the Russian coast guard.
Mr Rogers was not an activist although supports the philosophy of the charity and the mission.
All 30 have been charged with piracy and denied bail, despite Russia’s president Vladimir Putin openly declaring that the group were not pirates.
If convicted, the jail term is 10 to 15 years.
Iain’s mum Sue Turner, was due to travel to London on Wednesday, October 16, with other family members of those being held, to meet with members of the Foreign Office to find out more about how the Government is intervening in the case.
In his letter to Exeter’s MP Ben Bradshaw, who he asked to pass on to Mr Cameron, Iain wrote: “We were detained by armed, masked men in international waters – they showed no identification, physically assaulted at least two crew members, took personal possessions, laptops, phones and crew instruments and issued no receipts.
“We were not formerly arrested but held at gun point and our ship was towed into Murmansk by a Russian coastguard ship.
“Once in port we were visited by the British consul and told not to worry. Once our consuls had left however we were taken at gunpoint ashore.
“We were told it was for formalities and we would be back on our ship within four hours. They lied. We have been held since September 24.”
Appealing directly to the Prime Minister, Mr Rogers, wrote: “The action that Greenpeace took part in on the 18th September involved sending two climbers halfway up an oil rig and displaying a banner.
“As I’m sure you’re aware being an environmentalist yourself, in Greenpeace’s 40 year history they have never used, condoned the use of, or threatened violence of any sort.
“It’s time to act Mr Cameron. Other nations have so why not ours.
“This time you are going to have to do more than just roll your sleeves up.
“Will you talk Mr Cameron or will you act?”
Iain is one of three Devon people detained. Kieron Bryan, 29, a freelance film-maker who has family in Shebbear and Alexandra Harris, 27, who now lives in Australia but has a family still in North Devon, are also behind bars.
Iain’s mum said she recently received two letters from him via Greenpeace and was extremely worried about what might happen and described the wait as “very disconcerting”.
Mrs Turner expressed frustration at the reaction from their MP Hugo Swire and said she would have like more support and “openness” about what the Government was doing to help.
Mr Swire, who is also the Minister for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, confirmed to the Echo that the Government was dealing with the matter.
“I think they’ve been very cold in prison,” she explained. “But now they’ve put the central heating on.
“And Iain said in his letter to me that they’ve been moved around a lot which he’s found annoying. And he’s annoyed that he hasn’t been allowed to get a consistent eight hours sleep.
“He’s got through all the books that he has had access to.
“We’re trying to send him more, including Russian phrase books, but we don’t know if they are going to get to him.”
See extracts from the letter below (some of the letter has been cut out for security reasons)