MOSCOW -- A court in Saint Petersburg has ruled that nine Greenpeace activists can be freed on bail before their trial for hooliganism, raising hopes that the majority of the Arctic 30 will be released after two months in prison.
New Zealander David Haussmann and Brazilian Ana Paula Maciel were granted release from pre-trial detention on payment of a 2m rouble (pounds 38,000) bail surety yesterday morning, and as the day progressed activists from Finland, France, Italy, Argentina, Poland and Canada had bail requests approved on the same conditions.
Today two of the six British citizens among the detainees, activist Alexandra Harris and freelance videographer Kieron Bryan, will have their bail requests heard.
This week's decisions are the first time that Russian authorities or prosecutors have made concessions in the tough stance they have taken against Greenpeace since the 28 activists and two freelance journalists were seized in September on board the Arctic Sunrise during a protest against Arctic drilling.
The group were first charged with piracy, which was later downgraded to "hooliganism as part of an organised group". This carries a maximum jail term of seven years. Greenpeace say the piracy charges have not formally been dropped.
The 30 were moved from the Arctic port of Murmansk to Saint Petersburg by train this month. Three Russians among the 30 detainees were the first to have their hearings this week, and were all released on bail on Monday.
Greenpeace has said it will pay the bail charges imminently, and the activists will be released when the money is transferred, possibly as soon as the end of the week.
Maciel's mother, Rosangela Maciel, said this morning: "This is the most lovely news I've got in the last two months, but justice will only be done when all the absurd charges are dropped. A person who only does good for the planet, like my daughter, must be recognised by their actions, not unjustly accused. This is the only way we can keep the faith in the future."
It is unclear how the release of the activists on bail will work, given that they do not have valid Russian visas, and Greenpeace lawyers were unable to answer this question. However, the organisation says it has booked hotel rooms for those freed in Saint Petersburg.
Not all of the activists are celebrating. On Monday, 59-year-old Australian citizen Colin Russell had his detention extended. His bail application was rejected and the court ruled he should remain in pre-trial detention while prosecutors worked on the charges.
Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace said: "In the space of two mornings we have had good news and bad, and the good news comes with a warning. We still have no idea what conditions our friends will endure when they are released from jail, whether they will be held under house arrest or even allowed outside.
"What we do know for certain is that they are still charged and could spend years behind bars if they are convicted for a crime they did not commit. And we remain baffled and heartbroken that our colleague Colin was refused bail and sent back to prison for three months.
"The Arctic 30 will not be free until every last one of them is back home with their families."
Russia's Investigative Committee has said that activists who resisted arrest by the armed coastguard officers may be hit with new charges of endangering the lives of officials.
Those named as being bailed on Tuesday are: Ana Paula Maciel, 31, from Brazil, Miguel Hernan Perez Orsi, 40, Argentina, David Haussmann, 49, New Zealand, Sini Saarela, 31, Finland, Paul Ruzycki, 48, Canada, Camila Speziale, 21, Argentina, Tomasz Dziemianczuk, 36, Poland, Francesco Pisanu, 38, France, Cristian D'Alessandro, 32, Italy.
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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