Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise in Spanish custody

Seizure comes three months after vessel released by Russia.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Nov. 19, 2014 at 6:11 AM
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MADRID, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Three months after it was released by the Russian government, protest vessel Arctic Sunrise was seized by Spanish authorities, advocacy group Greenpeace said.

Spanish authorities seized the Greenpeace ship after activists staged a weekend protest against Spanish oil company Repsol for its drilling operations near the Canary Islands.

The Spanish government seized the vessel and started an investigation into the ship's crew for violation of maritime traffic rules. A Greenpeace video from the weekend shows the ship's captain refusing Spanish military orders to leave an area near the Repsol drilling site.

"The detention of the Arctic Sunrise violates the rights of all people who strive to defend the environment," Greenpeace Spain Director Mario Rodriquez said in a Tuesday statement. "It's telling that the Spanish government would so quickly support the interests of an oil company, Repsol, against a peaceful environmental organization."

Two Greenpeace activists were injured when a small boat dispatched from Arctic Sunrise was rammed by the Spanish Navy.

Greenpeace last year used its Arctic Sunrise vessel to gain access to the Prirazlomnaya rig, deployed by Russian energy company Gazprom for work in the country's arctic waters. Two freelance journalists and 28 Greenpeace activists, dubbed the Arctic 30, were held by Russian authorities on piracy charges last year.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the action "had the appearance of extremist activity." The advocacy group said it was working peacefully to raise concerns about the potential for an oil spill in the harsh arctic environment.

Arctic Sunrise was seized in September 2013 by Russian authorities and released back to Greenpeace in August.

Greenpeace said Spanish authorities are holding the vessel until a $62,000 bond is paid.

"Greenpeace finds this measure to be an unnecessary and disproportionate response to a peaceful protest against dangerous oil drilling," it said.

No crew members have been detained.

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