Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Kiwis join global Greenpeace protest

Greenpeace protesters in Wellington. Photo / APNZ
Greenpeace protesters in Wellington. Photo / APNZ

The partner of a New Zealander charged with piracy by Russian officials has told a group of about 200 protesters her partner is a peaceful man.

Sarah Watson broke down as she gave an emotional speech at the rally outside the Russian Embassy in Wellington today.

The protest is part of a global Day of Solidarity, with events taking place at more than 170 locations in 45 countries to protest against the arrest of 30 Greenpeace activists.
Among the crew arrested were New Zealanders Jonathan Beauchamp and David Haussmann.

All crew members of the Arctic Sunrise ship, which was seized in international waters last month during a protest over drilling for oil in the Arctic, now face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

A Russian Coast guard officer is seen pointing a gun at a Greenpeace International activist as five activists attempt to climb the Prirazlomnaya.
A Russian Coast guard officer is seen pointing a gun at a Greenpeace International activist as five activists attempt to climb the Prirazlomnaya.

Ms Watson, Mr Haussmann's partner, said the activists who were arrested were good people.

"These are not crazy nut-bars, they're normal peaceful people...and they believe in the right to peaceful protest and the right of free speech and I believe they deserve some support from everybody and that includes the New Zealand Government.''

Mr Beauchamp's niece Zara Mansoor also spoke to the crowd and read a letter written by her grandmother, Mary Beauchamp, about her son.

The letter said: "Our John is a caring, piratical, commonsense sort of man and very brave too.''

The Greenpeace candlelight protest outside the Russian Embassy in Wellington before dawn today. Photo / Mark Coote/Greenpeace
The Greenpeace candlelight protest outside the Russian Embassy in Wellington before dawn today. Photo / Mark Coote/Greenpeace

"He is particularly passionate about the Arctic, the ocean and all the creatures that depend on this environment.''

Amnesty International spokeswoman Lara Rapson said if this protest was being held in Russia, the group could be detained, with limited access to family and lawyers.

"We might find ourselves facing ludicrous charges.''

Amnesty condemned the piracy charges as having no basis in law "or reality'' and called for them to be immediately dropped, Ms Rapson said.

Greenpeace New Zealand board chairwoman Stephanie Mills the group who attended today's protest probably felt as strongly as those arrested about climate change.

There was no reaction from the embassy in regards to today's protest, she said.

"But we're constantly in touch with the Russian authorities in Russia - we have a big team there looking after our people and Greenpeace will not give up on getting our people out.''

The New Zealanders were coping well, but it was a difficult time for their families, she said.

Lawyers for the environment group have lodged formal appeals in the Murmansk Lenin district court against the continued detention of the crew members, who have been dubbed 'the Arctic 30'.

Meanwhile, the Dutch foreign minister said yesterday he would file a suit to recover the Arctic Sunrise.

Frans Timmermans said he would also try to obtain the release of the ship's 30 occupants charged with piracy by Russia via diplomatic channels.

"I feel responsible for the ship and its crew because it's a ship that sails under the Dutch flag,'' he told reporters in The Hague, Netherlands.

- Additional reporting by AP and Newstalk ZB

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