MOSCOW (AP) — Russian courts granted bail Wednesday to the American captain and four others arrested on a Greenpeace ship over a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic. They are among 30 people detained in the case.
Courts in St. Petersburg had already agreed this week to free 12 people pending trial. At the start of bail hearings on Monday, a judge refused bail to an Australian crew member, granting prosecutors' request to order him held until February. But since that decision, judges have agreed to release all suspects whose bail hearings have come up, indicating a change in official strategy.
The Australian radio operator, Colin Russell, does not appear to have been singled out in particular. His bail hearing simply came up first — and a Greenpeace lawyer said an appeal would soon be filed seeking to secure his release as well, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
Bail hearings for 12 others arrested over the protest are still pending.
In addition to the American skipper, Peter Willcox, courts on Wednesday agreed to release Faiza Oulahsen and Mannes Ubels of the Netherlands and Britain's Alexandra Harris and Kieron Bryan. Bail for each defendant has been set at 2 million rubles ($61,500).
The 30 people aboard the Greenpeace ship were detained in September and have been in custody ever since. It was unclear when they would be released or whether the foreign activists would be allowed to leave the country.
They were initially charged with piracy, but investigators later said they would be tried on charges of hooliganism.