Sydney resident Alexandra Harris is one of the Greenpeace crew detained by Russian authorities (AAP Image/Supplied by Greenpeace, Denis Sinyakov)
THE Australian government is standing firm despite pressure to demand the release of two Greenpeace activists being detained in a Russian prison.
Greenpeace and the Australian Greens want Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to seek the release of Colin Russell and British-born Sydney resident Alexandra Harris after they were remanded in custody for two months pending an investigation into piracy charges.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade simply says it will continue to liaise with other governments in its correspondence with Russian authorities.
A DFAT spokesman said Australian consular officials had visited Mr Russell and were monitoring his welfare and detention. He said Ms Harris was being assisted by British consular officials.
“We expect Russian authorities to afford due legal process to Mr Russell and the other detainees throughout the investigative process and any legal proceedings,” the spokesman said.
The pair are among 28 activists locked up after the Russian coastguard boarded the Dutch-flagged Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise during a protest against Arctic drilling.
The coastguard took control of the ship on 18 September after two activists attempted to scale Russian energy giant Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform.
At a court appearance in Murmansk on Thursday, 22 activists were remanded in custody for two months pending an investigation into piracy charges.
A Russian investigator told the court that Greenpeace seized property with threats of violence and committed “unlawful acts as a criminal group”.
Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne says suggestions of piracy are ridiculous and that Ms Bishop needs to make immediate representations to the Russian government to secure the release of Mr Russell and Ms Harris.
“It is critical that the Australian government upholds the right to peaceful protest and does not turn its back on any Australian being subjected to this kind of treatment dished out by the Russian government,” she said in a statement.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter says Ms Bishop should follow the lead of the Netherlands, which has asked Russia to release the activists and is considering legal action.
“The real question at the moment in this country is how is the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop going to respond to this?” Mr Ritter told AAP.
“I called Ms Bishop’s office on the day we first had news of what had happened, so last Friday, and was assured full consulate assistance was going to be provided.”
Comment has been sought from Ms Bishop, who is in New York.
While Russia has opened a case into piracy, President Vladimir Putin took a milder stance on Wednesday, telling an international Arctic form that “of course they are not pirates”, but that the activists had broken international law by coming dangerously close to the oil platform. – AAP