Thanks to a newly approved amnesty law in Russia, the detention of Greenpeace activist and Exeter resident Iain Rodgers looks set to end.
Mr Rodgers, a 37-year-old maritime engineer, was part of a 30-men crew on the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace vessel. Russian authorities detained the crew on September 19 following their boarding of the Gazprom Prirazlomnaya oil platform in a protest attempt.
The new amnesty law, which was proposed by Russian president Vladamir Putin and passed by the State Duma on Wednesday, could see Mr Rodgers and his crew – dubbed ‘the Arctic 30’ – get home as early as next week.
In essence, the amnesty grants pardon to those prosecuted in Russia for “hooliganism” – a charge that has been levelled at groups such as the Arctic Sunrise crew or feminist punk artistes Pussy Riot.
For Mr Rodgers, a member of Greenpeace for three years, it marks the end of a gruelling period.
In the early days of his imprisonment, he, along with his crew, were charged for piracy by the Russian Court, held in stark detention centers, and refused bail.
Despite widespread criticism against their detention, their situation looked bleak, with Mr Rodgers’ mother, Sue Turner, even telling the Express & Echo that she was not being optimistic of a successful bail.
In October, the piracy charges was reduced to hooliganism. Even with that reduced severity, that still carries a maximum sentence of seven years.
Things have in improved in recent months, after crew members were granted bail in November.
Since then, they have been living in hotel rooms in Russia. Eventually they received the news that a bill signalling their released had overwhelmingly passed through the State-Duma with the Kremlin’s backing.
Proposed in honour of the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution, the amnesty has been seen by some merely as an attempt to improve the country’s image overseas.
For Mr Rogers however, it has allowed him to look forward to coming home to Exeter in time for Christmas.
Bryan Toh, News Teambookmark me