A environmental campaigner from Devon facing 15 years in a Russian jail for alleged piracy has said she is “trying very, very hard not to lose hope”.
Greenpeace activist Alexandra Harris, from Dolton, was yesterday denied bail following a month in prison for her part in a protest against oil company Gazprom’s platform in the Arctic’s Pechora Sea.
She is one of six Britons among 30 people detained when armed Russian officials boarded their vessel, the Arctic Sunrise, last month.
In a handwritten letter to her parents, Ms Harris, 27, originally from Devon, said: “I’m worried about what’s going to happen.
“I have moments of feeling panicky but then I try to tell myself there’s nothing I can do from in here and what will be will be so it’s pointless worrying.
“But it’s hard. Surely my future isn’t rotting in a
prison in Murmansk?! Well, I really hope it isn’t.”
Appearing in court for her bail hearing yesterday, Ms Harris protested her innocence and said she was proud of Greenpeace’s “non-violent, peaceful efforts” to stop oil drilling in the Arctic.
“The only thing that happened was a peaceful protest and I believe the footage and Greenpeace’s long history can demonstrate this,” she said.
“I’d also like to say that the protest was not directed at Russia – it was solely about Arctic oil and the threat it poses to the climate and the Arctic environment.”
Greenpeace said it will not be “daunted” by the piracy charges the environmental campaigners are facing, as supporters held a candlelight vigil in London yesterday to mark their 30th day in prison.
The Britons, including videographer Kieron Bryan, who was documenting the protest, are being investigated for piracy, which carries a jail term of 10 to 15 years.
Along with Kieron Bryan, and Alexandra Harris, activist Philip Ball and second engineer Iain Rogers have been detained for two months pending an investigation.
Two other British activists, Frank Hewetson and Anthony Perrett are also being detained, having had earlier bail applications denied.
Kieron Bryan comes from from from Shebbear, North Devon, while Iain Rogers comes from Exeter.
The “Arctic 30” and their boat were taken from waters near the port of Murmansk on September 19 after two of them tried to board the rig.
Those arrested include citizens of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Finland, France, Sweden, Poland, Turkey and Ukraine and the US.
Greenpeace has warned a spill in Arctic waters would be highly damaging to the environment and the extraction of more fossil fuels would add to climate change impacts.
Gazprom’s plans to start drilling from the Prirazlomnaya platform in the first quarter of 2014 raised the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three nature reserves protected by Russian law, campaigners have said.
Meanwhile, 11 Nobel Peace Prize laureates have written a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin calling for the piracy charges to be dropped, including South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and Northern Irish peace activists Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams.
The letter came after German chancellor Angela Merkel became the first head of state to raise the issue of the crew’s detention with Mr Putin, urging a speedy resolution of the case in a phone call.
The families of the Britons involved have met with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss what was being done to bring their loved ones home.