November 24, ST. PETERSBURG (Associated Press, Irina Titova) – The U.S. captain of the Greenpeace ship seized by the Russian coast guard described on Sunday the stress and fear he and the other 29 people on board felt when they were thrown into Russian jails, with no idea when they would get out.
Most of them were released on bail last week after spending two months behind bars, and all were expected to be free soon.
“The hardest thing was the uncertainty, the anxiety, the damn fear,” Peter Willcox, a veteran Greenpeace activist who was the ship’s captain told The Associated Press. “Everybody lost weight during the first three weeks, and not because of food, but because of stress.”
They were initially charged with piracy for protesting at a Russian oil platform in Arctic waters and if convicted were looking at up to 15 years in prison.
“That changes my life, that changes anybody’s life,” said Willcox, who is 60. “I won’t see my mother and father again, they are not going to live another 10 or 15 years. My children will be grown up with children of their own.”
Investigators have since said they no longer consider the protest to have been piracy, but all 30 still face charges of hooliganism, which could send them to prison for up to seven years.
Greenpeace lawyers are optimistic that the foreigners will be able to leave Russia pending trial, but there has been no indication of how soon this could happen. Four of those arrested are Russian citizen, while the rest come from 17 other countries.