NORWALK, Conn. -- Peter Willcox, a Norwalk native and captain of the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, was released Friday from a Russian prison along with some of his fellow activists after being granted bail, according to Greenpeace International.
“These are wonderful moments for the families of the detainees released from prison," Greenpeace International Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe said in a statement. "This will only be over when they are able to go home, but for now we are allowing ourselves a sigh of relief, all the time remembering that those brave men and women are still charged with a crime they didn’t commit. This saga is far from over.”
Willcox had been held in prison since September when Russian authorities detained his ship, his 27 crew members and two photojournalists who were protesting oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The group is dubbed the Arctic 30 by Greenpeace.
Two crew members tried to climb the side of an oil drilling platform. Greenpeace and two activists say they were trying to hang a banner, but Russian authorities swiftly stopped the protest and detained the entire crew.
Willcox and the others were charged with piracy, but that charge has since been reduced to hooliganism.
Greenpeace has been raising money to pay for the bail of the crew members. As of Friday, 15 of the 30 crew members had been released. The organization expects more to be freed by early next week.
The non-Russian crew members already released have had their passports returned to them and have a special registration card that will allow them to remain in Russia legally, as they are required to do as a condition of the bail.
For now, the foreign nationals will stay at safe place in St Petersburg, Greenpeace said. It was not known when the Arctic 30 can leave Russia and return home.
Greenpeace describes itself as an independent global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect the environment and promote peace.