Russia has begun closing criminal cases against Greenpeace activists detained for staging a protest on an offshore oil rig in the Arctic two months ago.
Greenpeace Russia said investigators on Tuesday had dropped charges against activist Anthony Perrett of United Kingdom. Two more Greenpeace activists are expected to have their cases closed on Wednesday, their lawyers said.
Twenty-eight Greenpeace activists and two journalists were arrested in September after they attempted to scale Gazprom’s oil platform in the Barents Sea. Russian authorities also detained the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, and charged the activists with piracy, which could land them in jail for up to 15 years. The charges were later downgraded to hooliganism which carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years and after two months in detention all 30 activists were released on bail.
The activists have been pardoned under a broad amnesty passed by the Russian Parliament last week to mark the 20th anniversary of Russia’s post-Soviet Constitution.
However, President Vladimir Putin warned Greenpeace against repeating their protests in Russia. He told an annual press conference last week that protesters could face an even “tougher response” next time around.
Two members of punk band Pussy Riot jailed for staging an anti-Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral were also freed under the amnesty.
Mr Putin by a separate decree also pardoned former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent 10 years in prison for fraud and tax evasion.
The high-profile releases were widely seen as an attempt to soften criticism of Russia’s human rights record ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in two months time.