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Fifth Arctic protester locked up
A fifth British person has been locked up in Russia for two months without charge following a Greenpeace protest at an Arctic oil rig.
Frank Hewetson, a long-term activist with the environmental group, was remanded in custody when he appeared in court today accused of suspected piracy, a move described as "wildly disproportionate and unjust" by his partner Nina Gold.
A group of 30, including six Britons, were held last week when armed Russian officials boarded their vessel, the Arctic Sunrise.
The boat and protesters were taken from the Arctic's Pechora sea, near to oil company Gazprom's platform, to the port of Murmansk.
Campaigners Philip Ball and Alexandra Harris, freelance videographer Keiron Bryan and engineer Iain Roger learned they would be detained for two months earlier this week.
They have not been charged, though Russian authorities are investigating charges of piracy, which carry a jail term of 10 to 15 years.
The sixth Briton, activist Anthony Perrett, was also due to appear in court.
Ms Gold said the actions of the Russian authorities were "unwarranted".
"Frank is an environmental activist trying, on behalf of us all, to defend the Arctic from exploitation by the oil companies through peaceful non violent protest," she said in a statement released through Greenpeace.
"Two months behind bars without charge is wildly disproportionate and unjust. I would ask the Russian authorities to reconsider this unwarranted and harsh decision.
"His children and I are very concerned for him but know that he will be cheered by the support of millions of people worldwide which is bringing the destruction of the Arctic to international attention."
Mr Bryan's parents have also spoken of their concern for their son and said they were "extremely worried by the events of the past week".
Andy and Ann Bryan, from Shebbear in Devon, said: "Our son is a very kind, caring individual and environmental issues have always been very close to his heart. He would sympathise with the cause but he was simply there doing his job as a freelance videographer.
"None of those on board should be subjected to this prolonged period of detention. They are extremely brave, caring individuals who were peacefully protesting to bring the world's attention to the dangers of drilling in that particular area and of the serious consequences it could have on that already fragile environment.
"We are told that they are being treated fairly and are all well, for which we are extremely grateful. However, the fact that they are still there at all is a farce and quite out of proportion to their actions.
"We all love and miss him and just want him home safe and sound."
Greenpeace is campaigning against attempts by companies to drill for oil in the waters of the Arctic, warning that a spill would be highly environmentally damaging and extraction of more fossil fuels will add to climate change.
Gazprom's plans to start drilling from the Prirazlomnaya platform in the first quarter of 2014 raised the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three nature reserves protected by Russian law, campaigners said.
Executive director of Greenpeace UK, John Sauven, said: "The total over reaction by the Russian authorities to a peaceful non violent protest in the Arctic Ocean has continued today.
"The detention of Frank Hewetson for two months in prison while investigations into piracy continue is unacceptable.
"Even President Putin has publically stated at a meeting of the Arctic Forum last week that Greenpeace are not pirates. This is an act of intimidation and bullying by the Russian authorities. We will continue to support those who have been imprisoned and their families at this time."