Exit visas hold up Kiwis' return

Last updated 05:00 27/12/2013
David Haussmann
Reuters
BAILED: David John Haussmann attends the bail hearing.

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Two Kiwis who have been detained for three months in Russia are another step closer to flying home.

New Zealanders David Haussmann and Jonathan Beauchamp were part of the 30 crew of a Greenpeace ship who were accused of hooliganism following a protest outside a Russian oil rig in the Arctic.

Russian investigators have now formally dropped charges against all but one protester.

The withdrawal of the charges followed an amnesty that was passed by Parliament earlier this month, seen by many as an attempt by the Kremlin to dampen the criticism of Russia's human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

The amnesty specifically included the charge of hooliganism, which was used to prosecute the Greenpeace activists and two journalists, who were released from prison recently but have remained detained in St Petersburg.

Mr Haussmann's partner, Sarah Watson, said in Nelson yesterday it was now just a matter of waiting to get the final paperwork signed off to allow him to leave.

Greenpeace said that foreign members of the crew had already applied to the Russian authorities for exit visas to leave Russia and expect to get them in the next few days.

Ms Watson, who is expecting the couple's second child in February, said she had spoken to Mr Haussmann by Skype twice on Christmas Day.

He had heard about the move to formally withdraw the charges, and was now "waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn".

She said the one remaining complication was to get the paperwork done before the government shut down for their Christmas break next week.

The 30 crew members aboard a Greenpeace ship were detained in September and held in custody for two months before they were released on bail in November. They were originally charged with piracy, but that was then downgraded to hooliganism.

Peter Willcox, the United States captain of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, said in a statement that he was "pleased and relieved the charges have been dropped, but we should not have been charged at all".

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has questioned the Greenpeace protesters' intentions to protect the Arctic and alleged that they were trying to hurt Russia's economic interests.

Fairfax NZ, AP

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