A letter, posted on the website, calls on Russian President Vladimir Putin to aid in the release of those aboard the icebreaker Arctic Sunrise when it was seized by border guards in the last month. The letter was signed by South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi and others, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Thursday.
The letter maintains the activists aboard the ship were engaged in peaceful protest when they attempted to scale an oil drilling rig in the Arctic Ocean, and asks Putin to "do all you can to ensure that the excessive charges of piracy ... are dropped."
The group of activists is in a Murmansk jail and each member is going before a court to determine charges. Thursday an Australian radio operator aboard the ship, Colin Russell, was formally detained and ordered to remain in custody until Nov. 24. His hearing brings the number formally charged to 16, RIA Novosti said.