Three British activists arrested by the Russian authorities during a Greenpeace protest against drilling in the Arctic have been granted bail.
Alex Harris from Devon, Anthony Perrett from Newport, South Wales and London journalist Kieron Bryan are the first of the six Britons in the so-called Arctic 30 to be given bail, following similar decisions affecting 12 others.
The six are among the 28 activists and two freelance journalists arrested by Russian security forces two months ago.
The court hearings are being held in St Petersburg.
Mr Bryan’s family said in a statement: “It’s amazing news to know that Kieron will be released from prison soon. We have been thinking of him every minute of every day and we can’t wait to speak to him and see him.
“Our relief is obviously tempered by the fact that he is still facing absurd charges, despite the fact that he was just doing his job. This isn’t over for him or the others involved and we hope that these charges will be dropped soon so that he can carry on with his life without this terrible uncertainty hanging over him.”
Cliff Harris, Ms Harris’s father, said: “This is fantastic news for us, although we don’t know what the bail conditions are yet and of course this is not a complete a victory as these charges are still hanging over her.
“We got up early this morning and have been glued to the computer screen waiting for the news. It was nice to see her come into the courtroom with a smile on her face and holding her head high. These must have been two incredibly hard months for her, and we’re incredibly proud of how she has conducted herself throughout this ordeal.”
John Sauven executive director of Greenpeace UK said: “This rather tortuous legal process still has a long way to run, but today’s decision by the court to grant bail to Alex, Kieron and Anthony will come as a real relief to the family and friends of the three of them.
“Greenpeace will be doing everything we can to get the remaining activists released, including three Britons. All 30 are still facing ridiculously inappropriate charges for a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic.”
Ana Paula Maciels, 31, the Brazilian activist and the first to be granted bail, was released from detention today, the first of the 30 to leave jail.
Her mother Rosangela said: “As a mother, my heart always told me to keep the faith. I cannot wait for the moment to hold my beloved daughter in my arms and safe back home. We know the case has not finished yet, but Ana Paula is a warrior and will overcome everything in the end.”
Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: “The sight of our beloved friend Ana Paula walking through the gates of that detention centre is something that millions of people around the world will embrace as a sign of hope.
“Hope that 29 other brave men and women will soon follow her, hope that they might soon see their families, hope that their message about the fragile beautiful Arctic will one day be heeded.
“She was seized at gunpoint two months ago and since then she has lived behind bars, away from her loved ones, locked up for 23 hours a day, all for her part in a peaceful protest.
“But she is still charged with a serious crime, she could still spend years in jail, while her friend Colin was refused bail. None of our people will be truly free until they are all back home with their families.”