THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — 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.
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.
Associated Press writer Raf Casert contributed to this story from Luxembourg.
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