MONTREAL — Quebec is wading into international waters, calling out the Russian government in the case of Greenpeace activists arrested during a protest last month.
Jean-Francois Lisee, the Parti Quebecois government’s minister of international relations, is asking for clemency in the case of a Quebec resident held in Russian prison.
The crew of the seized Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise includes Alexandre Paul of Montreal and Paul Ruzycki of Port Colborne, Ontario. They could each face a 15-year prison term on charges of piracy.
Lisee said he’s been in contact with Canada’s consular services and is putting pressure on the federal government to do more.
He said he’s hoping to meet with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in the coming days.
“The legality of the arrest is questionable, and especially the charge of piracy, which carries a possibility of 15 years in prison, is clearly exaggerated,” Lisee said in a speech late Saturday at a Montreal vigil for the arrested activists.
The protest was one a handful held in Canadian cities on Saturday as part of an international day of action against the arrests.
Russia seized Arctic Sunrise after a Sept. 18 protest at a Gazprom oil drilling platform located in the Arctic circle, charging all 30 on the boat with piracy.
Paul’s mother, who was also at the Montreal protest, has urged the federal government to get more involved in the case.
Nicole Paul said she found the charges against her 35-year-old son excessive, given that his goal was to raise awareness about environmental issues.
Greenpeace denies any wrongdoing and describes the charges as absurd.