NORWALK, Conn. -- Norwalk native and Greenpeace ship captain Peter Willcox has been granted amnesty by Russian parliament, along with 27 other crew members and two freelance photographers after nearly three months in prison.
The 26 non-Russian members of the "Arctic 30," who protested Russian oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean by trying to hang a banner on a drilling rig, will soon go free and return to their native countries.
“I might soon be going home to my family, but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place," Willcox said in a statement. "We sailed north to bear witness to a profound environmental threat, but our ship was stormed by masked men wielding knives and guns. Now it’s nearly over and we may soon be truly free, but there’s no amnesty for the Arctic."
Willcox's ship, Arctic Sunrise, was boarded by Russian authorities wielding weapons during a September protest. The ship was towed to shore, where the crew was charged with piracy and jailed.
In the legal battle that followed, the charges were reduced to "hooliganism" and finally dropped altogether. Willcox and others were released from custody recently but not allowed to leave Russia. Celebrities and politicians from around the world voice their support for the arrested protesters during their jail time.
Willcox and the others will be free to return home once they are granted exit visas by Russian authorities.
"We may soon be home, but the Arctic remains a fragile global treasure under assault by oil companies and the rising temperatures they’re driving," Willcox added in the statement. "We went there to protest against this madness. We were never the criminals here.”