UPDATE 3-Russia reduces charges against Greenpeace activists over Arctic protest

Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:37pm EDT
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* Russia drops piracy charges

* Activists face up to seven years in prison if convicted

* Greenpeace says charges still unjustified

By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Russia on Wednesday dropped piracy charges against 30 people involved in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling, replacing them with lesser offences and cutting the maximum jail sentence they face to seven years from 15.

The charges against activists who protested at a Gazprom oil platform off Russia's northern coast last month have been changed from piracy to hooliganism, the federal Investigative Committee said in a statement.

Greenpeace said the new charges were still "wildly disproportionate" and promised to contest them.

All 30 people who were aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise during the Sept. 18 protest, in which activists tried to scale the Prirazlomnaya platform, are being held in detention in the northern Murmansk region until at least late November.

The Investigative Committee said it had begun the procedure of pressing the new charges, which carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. The piracy charges were punishable by 10 to 15 years.   Continued...