A freelance photographer and Greenpeace activist from Chipping Norton could face 15 years in a Russian jail after he was charged with piracy yesterday (Wednesday).
Father of three Phil Ball was one of a 30-strong crew on board the icebreaker Artic Sunrise on a Greenpeace mission to campaign against the extraction of fossil fuels from the Artic Ocean.
The ship approached the Prirazlomnaya platform –Russia’s first off shore oil rig – on September 18 to protest against drilling in ice bound waters.
Russian FSB officers wearing balaclavas and armed with machine guns approached the ship in inflatable dinghies and fired warning shots into water after two activists attempted to climb onto the rig. The entire team was then arrested at gunpoint.
Mr Ball’s brother Steve, also a Greenpeace supporter, has appealed to the Russian government for leniency.
He said: “His motivation is for the life of the planet and the lives of his own three children.
“If we burn all the fossil fuels that are available to use it will be the end of civilisation. He knew the risks he was taking.
“I would say to the Russian government ‘don’t shoot the messenger’.
“Please don’t make them the fall guys for the Greenpeace mission, which we’re doing for the benefit of all our futures.”
Mr Ball said he was very concerned for his brother’s safety when he saw online footage of the armed arrests and says he has no way of knowing how long his detention might last. Greenpeace is offering support to Mr Ball’s family as its lawyers work to free the captives.
Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: “A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest.
At the time of going to press 18 of the 30 team members had been charged with piracy.
The remainder were expected to be charged yesterday (Wednesday).