Five British Greenpeace activists freed after Russian detention
- 22 November 2013
- From the section Wales
Five Britons arrested by Russian authorities during a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic have been freed on bail after two months in detention.
They were arrested in September on hooliganism charges with 25 others after a protest at an Arctic offshore oil rig.
Anthony Perrett, Alex Harris, Kieron Bryan, Frank Hewetson and Iain Rogers were freed on Friday.
Philip Ball, from Oxford, has been granted bail but remains in detention.
Greenpeace said Mr Ball might not be released until Monday but it could not be certain.
It said all those released had moved to an undisclosed location in St Petersburg.
The crew of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise originally faced piracy charges.
The organisation said Mr Perrett, 32, from Newport, was the first of the Britons to be released from detention in St Petersburg on Friday.
Mr Bryan, 29, from London, whose family has campaigned for his release, was the second to be freed.
Ms Harris, from Exeter, was third and quickly followed by Mr Hewetson, from London and Mr Rogers, also from Devon.
Ms Harris revealed she was kept in a cell on her own after being taken to a prison in Murmansk.
"For the first week it was really harsh. It was nerve-wracking," she told BBC News immediately after being released.
"I was in a cell on my own. You do get used to it, but it was tough."
Ms Harris said letters from supporters had kept her going.
Ten non-UK activists have had bail approved with some of them also being released.
All 30 of those originally detained still face possible trial on charges of hooliganism over the protest at an Arctic offshore oil rig owned by the Russian company Gazprom.
Mr Perrett told BBC News via Skype he was "feeling wonderful" to be free.
"It's certainly an experience I won't forget in a hurry," he said.
"I'm feeling very good, very glad to be out of prison and raring to get back to work [in forestry].
"At the moment things are a little bit uncertain so I'll be staying in St Petersburg for the foreseeable future. I hope to be back in Wales before too long but this is all dependent upon the Russian authorities.
"Like any Welshman, being out of Wales is never that much fun for an extended period.
"Being able to use a toilet alone is a great thing.
"It's only really sharpened my interest in getting the environmental cause forward. Fingers crossed I'll get back to work soon.
"I'd like to say thanks for all the support from back home and Greenpeace."
Mr Bryan told BBC News it had been "tough" for the group, who were arrested two months ago.
"More than anything, it's the isolation and not being able to speak to anyone, not being able to speak a common language.
"Being trapped in a cell for 24 hours a day is something I don't ever want to experience again, and there are a lot of people inside who have to carry on doing that.
"My plan now is to go to a hotel and have a long shower, leave my room whenever I want, never do another Sudoku puzzle again, and speak to my family. That's the main plan.
"No idea about what happens next. I'm just focusing on getting through today, speaking to my family, and I'll deal with everything from then."
Mr Perrett's partner, Zaharah Ally, told BBC News of her joy and relief at speaking to him.
"His lawyer gave him his phone so he could call me from the car.
"He said that he had been very anxious, just waiting to hear about his release. He had made very good friends with his cell mate - and he had been watching the same rat outside his cell window," she said.
"He was happy and in quite good spirits.
"It was lovely to speak to him. It was lots of giggles, laughter and my first question was 'how are you'? We just chatted and caught up - it's the longest we've ever gone without speaking to each other. We were very excited to hear from each other."
Ms Ally said Mr Perrett has been told he will have to remain in St Petersburg and she is expecting to travel to Russia as soon as possible.
Greenpeace campaigner Ben Ayliffe said: "This is a wonderful moment for Anthony and his family and friends. But this will only really be over when he and the others are able to go home."
On Thursday, the BBC reported Russian prosecutors suddenly stopped opposing bail, and the judges started setting the campaigners free.
It is still unclear if they will now be allowed to leave Russia.
Meanwhile, in a ruling on Friday the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered the Russian Federation to release Arctic Sunrise and the 28 activists and two freelance journalists on board upon payment of a 3.6m Euro (more than £3m) bond.
But Russia said the tribunal had no jurisdiction in this case.
The Arctic Sunrise, with a crew from 16 countries, was seized by the Russian authorities on 18 September.
In total, 29 of the 30 detainees have been granted bail and the majority released from custody.
Those freed on bail include the ship's US captain, Peter Willcox; Canadian Paul Ruzycki; the Netherlands' Faiza Oulahsen and Mannes Ubels; Switzerland's Marco Weber; Argentina's Miguel Orsi; and New Zealand's Jonathan Beauchamp.
Bail has also been approved for Ukraine's Ruslan Yakushev, Gizem Akhan from Turkey, and Canadian Alexandre Paul but there was no news on their release.
Reports said the three remaining detainees - Philip Ball from Oxford, Roman Dolgov from Russia and Dima Litvinov from Sweden - were granted bail on Friday.
One detainee, Australian radio operator Colin Russell, has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention until 24 February. Greenpeace is lodging an appeal.