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Dutch want tribunal to make Russia free protesters

Published: Monday, Oct. 21 2013 10:15 a.m. MDT

Marking the 30th day of imprisonment of thirty people seized on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, people hold placards with pictures of them as they participate in a vigil outside the Russian Embassy in London, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.  (Lefteris Pitarakis, Associated Press) Marking the 30th day of imprisonment of thirty people seized on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, people hold placards with pictures of them as they participate in a vigil outside the Russian Embassy in London, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. (Lefteris Pitarakis, Associated Press)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Netherlands asked an international tribunal Monday to order Russia to release a Greenpeace protest ship and the activists who were on board.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said the government made the request to the Hamburg, Germany-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

A group of 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists have been held since their ship, the "Arctic Sunrise" was seized by the Russian coast guard after a protest near a Gazprom-owned oil rig on Sept. 18.

The activists are being held in the northern Russian city of Murmansk. They have been charged with piracy, an offense that carries a 15-year sentence in Russia.

Timmermans said the request was a procedural step in an arbitration case the Dutch launched two weeks ago seeking to free the activists and their ship, which sails under the Dutch flag.

Marking the 30th day of imprisonment of thirty people seized on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, people hold placards with pictures of them as they participate in a vigil outside the Russian Embassy in London, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. (Lefteris Pitarakis, Associated Press) Marking the 30th day of imprisonment of thirty people seized on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, people hold placards with pictures of them as they participate in a vigil outside the Russian Embassy in London, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. (Lefteris Pitarakis, Associated Press)

He told reporters in Luxembourg "it will come as no surprise to the Russian Federation" that the Dutch have now asked for the tribunal to order the release pending a final decision in the case.

Timmermans said it would likely take about a month for the tribunal to reach a decision on the request.

In a statement, Greenpeace International welcomed the Dutch initiative and called on other governments whose nationals are among the detained activists "to step up their work to ensure the immediate release of the detainees."

The tribunal the Dutch are turning to adjudicates in disputes arising from interpretation and application of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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In this photo released by Greenpeace International and made Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, one of the activists Anne Jensen from Denmark appears at her bail hearing, at a Murmansk district court, in Murmansk, Russia.  (Dmitri Sharomov, Associated Press) In this photo released by Greenpeace International and made Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, one of the activists Anne Jensen from Denmark appears at her bail hearing, at a Murmansk district court, in Murmansk, Russia. (Dmitri Sharomov, Associated Press)

Associated Press writer Raf Casert contributed to this story from Luxembourg.

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