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Exeter Greenpeace maritime engineer has been freed by Russian authorities

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: December 19, 2013

By Fran McElhone

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The Arctic 30, including an Exeter maritime engineer, have been freed by the Russian Government.

Iain Rogers, 37, from Countess Wear as well as two others from Devon were among the 28 activists and two journalists charged with piracy and hooliganism by the Russian authorities, after a peaceful Greenpeace protest in the Arctic.

After two months in prison, they were released on bail but were not allowed to leave the Russian city of St Petersburg.

Yesterday, the Russian parliament, called the Duma, included the Arctic 30 in a new amnesty bill that will free specific groups of people already convicted of minor crimes.

So there was an anxious wait, including for Iain’s mum Sue Turner whether the bill, drawn up by President Vladimir Putin, would include the Arctic 30 who had not yet been convicted.

However the environmental charity claimed some members of the Duma called for the bill to be extended to all people – including those charged but not yet convicted of hooliganism and rioting.

It is not yet known if Iain, or the others including video journalist Kieron Bryan, 29, and Alex Harris, 27, both from Devon, will be home in time for Christmas due to the time it may take for the exit visas to be arranged.

A Greenpeace spokesperson, added: “Yesterday the Russian government agreed to amend an amnesty bill to include the Arctic 30, and the bill was officially adopted by their parliament.

“This means legal proceedings against them will be halted and they should be home soon.

“I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief, but the Arctic 30 have said they’re not celebrating.

“They’ve all spent two months in jail for a crime they didn’t commit, and faced criminal charges that were absurd.

“As Pete Willcox, captain of the Arctic Sunrise, said: “There’s no amnesty for the Arctic.”

“By accepting the amnesty they are not admitting guilt, and once they have the necessary exit visas, they should be home with their families.

“When that will be is still in the hands of the Russian authorities, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Christmas.

“It’s been overwhelming watching the huge swell of support for the Arctic 30 over the last three months: 860 protests in 46 countries, and more than 2.6 million people emailing their Russian embassy. This stand of solidarity has been incredibly inspiring.

“And I hope it won’t end once they’re home. We must finish what these brave 28 activists and two journalists set out to do, and save the Arctic.”

Greenpeace International has always insisted that the piracy and hooliganism charges were unjustified.

And it claims that Russian authorities boarded the Arctic Sunrise illegally in international waters.

Iain’s mum, Sue Turner, said yesterday that she could “only hope” for their release but has now expressed her relief that they have been freed.

Mrs Turner said their bail end had been set for February 28, and she was planning on applying for a visa to visit her son in the new year which she thankfully will not have to do.

“It went on for so long,” she said.

“It’s been the not knowing which has made it so difficult.”

“Iain has received fantastic support from his friends and I am very grateful to all of them,” she added.

“I arrived home one evening to a bunch of flowers on my doorstep.

“Knowing there were people who hadn’t forgotten them and cared, has helped me cope all these weeks.”

The 30-strong group charged with piracy and hooliganism following the peaceful protest against one of Russia’s largest oil companies, Gazprom, when their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, was boarded by armed members of the Russian coastguard on September 18.

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