MOSCOW, November 20 (RIA Novosti) – A Greenpeace activist was released on bail from a Russian detention facility Wednesday, taking her first steps out of jail since she and a group of fellow campaigners were detained during an Arctic Sea protest almost nine weeks ago.
Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel, a 31-year-old biologist from Brazil, held up a hand-written sign reading “Save the Arctic” as she left the pretrial detention facility in the northern city of St. Petersburg.
Maciel is the first member of the group of Greenpeace detainees to be released.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on her Twitter account that Maciel could count on her support and that Brazil's foreign ministry would continue to monitor the case.
A group of 28 Greenpeace activists and two reporters was jailed and initially charged with piracy for attempting in September to scale an Arctic Sea oil platform owned by an affiliate of energy giant Gazprom in protest against offshore drilling in the environmentally sensitive area. That charge was later downgraded to hooliganism, which is punishable by a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.
Twenty people out of the group had been granted bail by Wednesday evening. More bail hearings were scheduled for Thursday.
Greenpeace said earlier in the day that it had already posted bail for nine people, but that it did not expect them to be released before the weekend.
“There are a number of bureaucratic issues to resolve before any of the Arctic 30 are released from jail,” the environmental organization said in a press release. “Lawyers say they are making bail payments as quickly as they can.”
Courts in St. Petersburg have been granting bail to various members of the group in quick succession over the last few days, but Australian activist Colin Russell was on Monday ordered to stay in prison until February 24.
Greenpeace said on Twitter that the organization was not sure why Russell was denied bail, but noted that his hearing was the first one of the group. The environmental organization says it will appeal the court’s decision to keep him in jail.
It is unclear if the bailed activists’ movements will be restricted until their trial. Greenpeace said that none of the activists have gotten back their passports since their documents were confiscated during the seizure of the Arctic Sunrise ship by Russian security forces.
Updates with number of people granted bail, Brazilian president's comment on Twitter.