Released Greenpeace Activists Still Campaigning

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Greenpeace activists Mannes Ubels and Faiza Oulahsen continue campaigning . Two months in a Russian cell did not break their fighting spirit is, according to the two in an exclusive interview with Nieuwsuur, which was broadcast Monday night.The recent developments are not a reason to stop campaigning, according to Ubels. Oulahsen indicates, if anything, they even increased her militancy. After initially being worried about the situation, she came to the conclusion she did not want to be intimidated.

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Ubels and Oulahsen belong to the group of thirty Greenpeace activists who were arrested by the Russian authorities in September during a campaign in the Arctic. They were accused of piracy, among other things. Last week they were released on bail. They are still at risk of being sentenced to seven years in prison.

The two admit to deliberately taking the risk of being arrested, even though they hadn't counted on the Russians taking it this far. They were threatened with violence beforehand, but that seemed an unlikely scenario, since their actions were against Gazprom and not against Russian regime. In addition, they were in international waters and on a Dutch ship, according to Oulahsen.

In the courtroom, especially Oulahsen showed her activist side. She spoke extensively with the press and had slogans written on her hands. Pictures of it went all over the world. Her tone against the judge was fierce. Even though she realizes it makes little difference what you say to the judge, her statements were meant for the abundance of media present, according to Oulahsen.

Ubels had no need to assert himself. He knew it would have little impact, and knew a lot was happening outside the courtroom. He followed his lawyer's advise to leave as much as possible up to him.

Mannes and Faiza were treated fairly in prison. Especially in Murmansk, the conditions were not bad. Obviously there was no luxury, but otherwise acceptable, stated Oulahsen. Earlier Faiza wrote in a letter to Algemeen Dagblad about leaking water pipes, a window that could not close, defective plumbing, and rats that found their way to her filthy cell at night.

In St. Petersburg, the situation was more difficult. Many prisoners told the Greenpeace activists they are regularly abused by guards or inmates. The two Dutch did not experience any of that.

The two agree the food in jail was sufficient, but of poor quality. In the morning they were given bread and porridge, and in the evening mainly soup and potatoes. One of the first things Oulahsen did when she got out, was to find good food.

The two are now out on bail and are not allowed to leave Russia. They can still be sentenced to seven years in prison, but they don't expect it to come to that, according to Ubels. He is confident justice will prevail.

They don't know how much longer they will have to stay in Russia. Oulahsen hopes to be home before the new year. Ubels would be content if he could make it home before the start of the Winter Olympics on February 7.


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