The piracy charges lodged by the Russian authorities against Chipping Norton cameraman Phil Ball have been downgraded to hooliganism.
Mr Ball was on board the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise vessel when it was boarded by Russian special forces as it approached an off-shore oil rig in the Baltic Sea last month.
30 activists on board were arrested and held in jail in Murmansk. They were later charged with piracy, but these charges have now been downgraded to hooliganism.
The decision means any potential jail sentence Mr Ball may face will be reduced from 15 to seven years, but the Russian government has not ruled out pressing further charges against the Arctic 30.
A statement issued by Greenpeace today reads: “On the face of it, and compared to piracy, hooliganism sounds innocuous enough, more like a crime of youthful over-exuberance, akin to graffiti or streaking at a football match.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. Russia has simply dropped one serious charge and replaced it with another that still carries the very real prospect of the Arctic 30 languishing in jail for up to seven years.”
Greenpeace lawyers continue to work to free the Arctic 30 and the organisation is supporting Mr Ball’s family.