POLITICS

Greenpeace says Canadian activist Ruzycki denied bail by judge in Russian court

10/24/2013 08:25 EDT | Updated 12/24/2013 05:12 EST
MOSCOW - Greenpeace says a Canadian has been refused bail by a Russian court, a day after piracy charges were dropped against a group of jailed activists and replaced with charges of hooliganism.

The group says Paul Ruzycki, of Port Colborne, Ont., has been refused bail by the Regional Court of Murmansk, bringing the number of rejected bail appeals to 29.

It says another Canadian, Alexandre Paul of Montreal, had his bail appeal denied Friday.

Russia's main investigative agency said Wednesday it had dropped piracy charges against the 30 activists, who were originally facing prison terms of up to 15 years under the piracy charges.

The hooliganism charges can carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

The Greenpeace activists have been held since their ship "Artic Sunrise" was seized by the Russian coast guard last month following protests outside a Gazprom-owned oil rig.

Greenpeace says Russian authorities have said some of the accused may also be charged with use of force against officials, which can carry up to 10 years in prison.

The group says while the changes in charges to the activists were announced Wednesday, the judge in Ruzycki's case refused to consider them and instead proceeded on the basis of the original piracy charges.

In court on Thursday, Ruzycki said he and the others are "peaceful activists from around the world, working for a common goal," using non-violent means.

"We have nothing personal to gain by our non-violent actions, on the contrary we have everything to lose: Our freedom, family and friends," he said.

Christy Ferguson of Greenpeace says the charges are "trumped up" and illegal.