Relief for family of 'piracy' activist

Happy again: Tony Haussmann is relieved his brother has returned home safe and well after being arrested in Russia.
Happy again: Tony Haussmann is relieved his brother has returned home safe and well after being arrested in Russia.

The brother of Greenpeace activist David Haussmann, who last week returned home after being held for four months against his will in Russia, is relieved the ordeal is over.

Renwick man Tony Haussmann said yesterday that the past few months had been trying for his family and at times it had seemed there was no way out.

"The support from my work and the community has been really good and I am truly grateful."

He said the difficult part had been not knowing; the family had no direct contact with his brother, a Nelson electrical engineer who was among the "Arctic 30" arrested in September and initially charged with piracy after their ship approached an oil platform owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom, despite orders from the Russians not to do so.

The family had no idea how his younger brother was being treated or what he needed, he said.

"All communications had to be done through our lawyers - thank goodness for email.

"When we sent letters they had to be translated into Russian first, they were edited and then what was left was read to him by his lawyer in the 30 minutes she saw him a day," he added.

As his brother's listed next of kin, the Renwick man became the family spokesperson throughout the ordeal.

"We had to prove he had a son and his partner was really pregnant, that he held a job, character references . . . and it all had to be stamped and sealed by a justice of the peace or it was not accepted by Russia," he said.

The relief of hearing his brother was coming home was immense, but he did not believe it until he saw online that his brother's flight had departed for New Zealand.

"They were facing a possible 15-year sentence - his unborn child and 3-year-old son wouldn't have known him had that happened," he said.

"He would have been just a man in photos to them. I can't explain what goes through your mind when you hear things like that."

The family gathered at David's Nelson home to await his arrival.

"We were up at 6am, with the two hours till his arrival feeling like weeks," Tony Haussmann said.

"My mum could have walked out a trench in the carpet pacing up and down the way she did. We even prepared veges for lunch just to stay busy."

When his brother walked through the door, and for the rest of the day, very little was said.

"There were tons of big smiles and lots of hugs all day - there weren't words to describe what we were feeling.

"It was like a heavy cloud was lifted and one could finally see the world again, like when the rain clouds lift over the Wither Hills and they turn a sunny gold," Tony Haussmann said.

The 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists on board the seized vessel were initially charge with piracy, which carries a maximum 15-year sentence. The charge was later reduced to hooliganism, which carries a seven-year jail sentence.

The Russian parliament recently voted for an amnesty for them, which left the New Zealanders free to return home.

The Marlborough Express