Devon Greenpeace videographer’s family fears ‘crazy’ prison term
The brother of a British journalist being detained in Russia says it is “crazy” and “absolutely ludicrous” he could face 15 years jail on piracy charges.
Videographer Kieron Bryan, from Devon, was part of a group of 30, which included six Britons, who were last month held when armed Russian officials boarded their vessel, the Arctic Sunrise.
The boat and Greenpeace protesters were taken from the Arctic’s Pechora sea, near to oil company Gazprom’s platform to the port of Murmansk.
The six Britons, including Mr Bryan, who was documenting the protest, are being investigated for piracy, which carries a jail term of 10 to 15 years.
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His brother Russell Bryan said he never thought his brother would find himself in the situation, given he was just doing his job.
“The charges are crazy, absolutely ludicrous,” Russell Bryan said. “It’s very easy to sit here and talk about Kieron doing a 15 year stretch, but the actually reality of sitting down and thinking about that is heartbreaking.
“If we start thinking about it, it becomes very difficult.
“I think the only way to deal with it is to make sure that we’re as busy and proactive as possible and we’ve just got to do whatever we can to make the situation go away or end as soon as possible.”
The six British families today met with the Foreign and Commonwealth office to discuss what was being done to bring their loved ones home.
Along with Kieron Bryan, activists Philip Ball and Alexandra Harris and second engineer Iain Rogers have been detained for two months pending a piracy investigation.
Two other British activists, Frank Hewetson and Anthony Perrett are also being detained, having had earlier bail applications denied.
Russell Bryan said the meeting with the FCO was positive and helped reassure the families what steps the UK and other governments were taking to resolve the situation.
His father, Andy Bryan, said the families had to have faith in the harsh Russian criminal system.
“We have to hope it doesn’t reach the court case,” he said. “We have to hope there will be some solution before that.”
Mr Rogers’ mother, Sue Turner, said despite the dangers of being involved in Greenpeace activism, she could have never had imagined her son would be in the situation he was in.
“Greenpeace did do a similar protest last year... and some people were arrested then, but they were released fairly quickly,” she said.
“So although I’m not surprised they have been arrested, I am surprised they have been accused of piracy and that carries 15 years.
“I’m very worried about that aspect.”
The families said they were concerned Russian authorities would not facilitate visits with their loved ones.
Although the 30 detainees had been given phone cards, only Alexandra Harris had been able to contact her family so far.
Her father, Clifford Harris, said he spoke to her five nights ago.
“She’s not complained once about how she’s been treated (but) she’s terrified,” he said.
“She’s certainly not used to living in that situation, but mentally she’s holding it together quite well, which surprises us because she’s quite a sensitive girl.”
Her sister, Georgina Harris, said she had found it “very tough” to cope while her sister was locked up in Russia.
“I’d say she was my best friend and I’d never have imagined she’d be in this situation – none of us did,” she said.
“The lack of contact is awful.”
Greenpeace spokesman Niall Sookoo said there had been no suggestion during the families’ meeting with the foreign office that diplomatic concerns were trumping those of the detainees.
Those arrested include citizens of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Finland, France, Sweden, Poland, Turkey and Ukraine and the US.
Greenpeace had been campaigning against attempts by companies to drill oil in Arctic waters.
It warned a spill would be highly damaging to the environment and the extraction of more fossil fuels would add to climate change impacts.