Monday, November 18, 2013

Greenpeace Detainees Complain of Language Barrier in Russian Jail

Greenpeace activists currently facing trial in Russia after mounting a protest at oil drilling in the Arctic Sea have few complaints about prison conditions but are being hampered by the language barrier, a state rights watchdog said Monday. Mikhail Fedotov, who heads the Kremlin rights council, visited two of the three detention facilities in the northern city of St. Petersburg in which the group of 28 activists and two journalists are being held. All 30 people were initially charged with piracy for attempting in September to scale an oil platform owned by an affiliate of state-run energy giant Gazprom, but those charges were later downgraded to hooliganism, an offense punishable by up to seven years in jail. Fedotov wrote on his official blog on the Kremlin website that pre-detention facilities he visited lack any English-language books and magazines. Inmates are of little help as most speak no English, and an official translator helps only during conversations with detention facility staff, Fedotov said.

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