Activist home after Russian ordeal
'Just so happy it's over'TRACY NEAL
David Haussmann is home from Russia after a tough four months of not knowing what might happen next.
"We're all just so happy it's over and now in the past," his brother Tony Haussmann said yesterday, shortly after David Haussmann arrived back home in north Nelson.
He said in a brief statement he was "very pleased to be home" and was looking forward to spending some time with his family.
The Nelson electrical engineer was among 28 crew and two journalists on board the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise when it was seized off Russia's Arctic coast in September and towed to a port near Murmansk.
Jonathan Beauchamp was the other New Zealander on the ship, which approached an oil platform owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom on September 18, despite orders from the Russians not to do so.
Beauchamp is now home with family in Wellington, Greenpeace said.
The pair arrived in Auckland around 8am yesterday and were ushered through the arrival area away from the media spotlight. Haussmann's partner Sarah Watson, who is due to have the couple's second child next month, and their young son Theo flew up to Auckland to meet him.
Greenpeace New Zealand campaign manager Carmen Gravatt said it was a "huge relief to see them both back", and to see Haussmann with his young son in his arms.
"It was a wonderful way to wrap up the year. It's been really hard for them and it's such a surreal experience being back now.
"I was with David for a couple of hours in Auckland and the whole time he was immersed with Theo.
"We're now just giving them space to concentrate on family because it's insane what they've been through," Gravatt said.
The Arctic 30 were initially charged with piracy, which carries a seven-year jail sentence. The charges were later reduced to hooliganism.
Haussmann told the Nelson Mail last month from his hotel in St Petersburg that the detention centre in Murmansk as "very oppressive". They were confined to a cell for 23 hours a day, and the Greenpeace crew were not allowed to communicate with each other.
Contact with their families was brief and sporadic, and mainly in messages delivered via Greenpeace lawyers.
"Not having the ability to hold a conversation with someone is very hard.
"I did not have a clue what it felt like to have no freedom of choice. I have grown from it and I now understand what that means."
The crew were then moved to a detention centre in St Petersburg where all 30 were eventually released on bail after further court appearances. They were forced to remain in the city, pending possible further court action, until declared free to go in recent days.
Tony Haussmann said their mother Barbara Haussmann had arrived from Rangiora to await David's arrival home yesterday. "I got to see him walk through the door, full of smiles and hugs all round. It's a huge relief for Sarah, who is doing exceptionally well," Tony Haussmann said.
Nelson MP Nick Smith, who has advocated on Haussmann's behalf with Russian ambassador to New Zealand Valery Tereschchenko, said he was delighted for the family.
He met Tereschchenko in October to "emphasise strongly" the plight of the family, while acknowledging that the independence of the Russian judicial process had to be respected.
Dr Smith has since written to Tereschchenko after recent legislation was passed through the Russian parliament, with a further plea that Haussmann be released and an exit visa issued.
The Russian Parliament recently voted for an amnesty for those charged with hooliganism, which left the New Zealanders free to return home.
"It's a good outcome given how serious the initial charges were. I'm happy they can get their life back to normality," Dr Smith said.
Gravatt said it had been a very stressful time for everyone, but the release of all 30 came down to the millions around the world who supported the cause and the plight of those held.
She said it has cost Greenpeace a great deal, including what was likely to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyers' fees and associated costs.
"That money came from supporters, who were more than happy to have their funds go to the campaign to get them out," Gravatt said.
She said the work would be ongoing, because the Greenpeace ship seized was still in Murmansk as "part of the investigation". All the crew's personal belongings were still on board, and their jobs were with that ship.
Executive director for Greenpeace New Zealand, Bunny McDiarmid, said the campaign to free the Arctic 30 had seen 860 protests in 46 countries and in more than 150 cities worldwide.
More than 2.6 million people had written to Russian embassies, while political leaders and Nobel Peace Prize winners had lent support.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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