“I have no idea how this will end, how long it will take. The uncertainty is driving me crazy,” writes Greenpeace Netherlands campaigner Faiza Oulahsen in a letter from her cell in Murmansk, Russia. She writes about her experiences from entering the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunriseuntil a few days ago when she along with 29 others lost their freedom to the Russian security forces. “Two months in jail is one thing, but then? What then?”
Today is Saturday the 28th September I believe, around 12 o’clock. After 9 days of being locked up and cut off from all communication you tend to lose track of time. I was locked up on the ship from Thursday 19 September 18:30 until Tuesday evening.
Shortly before we were taken to shore, Mannes and I spoke to our Consul, Martin Groenstege. A friendly man who gave us hope. After we told him about our situation he told us about the work being done by Greenpeace to support us. Very moving to hear! And we were very happy to know that we have not been forgotten.
About two hours later a translator arrived with a few more FSB’s [formerly the KGB] and we were told that we were going to be taken to land and had 10 minutes to get all our things. We were given the indication that we should pack for about 24 hours. I rushed off to my room where I was still able to make a quick call to Ben and informed him that in a few minutes we were going to be taken ashore to the “Department of Investigation.” I then resumed packing and packed my jacket, gloves, underwear, 2 thermals, glasses and toothbrush. Now, after four days, I am sorry I didn’t pack more clean clothes.
On Tuesday we went, for approximately half an hour, on the boat, with the Coast Guard, split in two groups. After half an hour of sailing we were brought to land where I finally had around 10 minutes to be outside and take in the fresh air. After that we were taken by bus to (I think) the head office of the FSB. After arrival, I was one of the first ones to be taken in to what I thought would be an interrogation. There I sat, on a chair inside a cold room, across from a lady who was busy typing. Next to me was a translator, a young lady, who apparently had studied English. Suddenly she was called in by the FSB, together with a few others, and it looked like they did not have much of a choice but to cooperate. She told me that a written report had to be compiled on the incident. I requested a Dutch translator and was told, “That’s not possible.”
I willingly stated that I would confirm my personal details, but that I would not say anything further until such time as a lawyer was present. “It’s just a report” they said. I laughed and said, “I need my lawyer.” I gave them the name and telephone number of our two lawyers. After a while Vladizlav, my lawyer, came in.
Around midnight I was taken to the rest of the group. At that moment, a number [of people] were handcuffed and taken away. After that we were supposed to be incarcerated for 48 hours. That’s crap because we had already been incarcerated for five days on the ship. Handcuffed we
were taken away in groups to three different buildings. Upon arrival we were put together with six women from our group in a cell. It took quite a while before we were called one by one for intake; therefore we just laid on the floor and wooden tables, because we were dead tired.
Around 5 o’clock in the evening and after taking my fingerprints, I was taken to my cell. A bit later Camila and Alex were brought in. It was ice cold and the lights were on constantly.
The following day we went again to the office. The previous night I was informed that I was going to be charged with piracy and other made-up stories. Today I get to hear who the leaders of the investigation team are — of course drafted in a Russian document. I requested a translation on paper and a copy of the original document. I was told that I had to get my lawyer to request it from the “General in Moscow.” At the end of the day I was taken back to the cell.
The next day, Thursday 26/9 was a very heavy day. We were again transported in busses, but this time in a dark, locked up metal cage, where just one person could fit, like animals get transported, to the FSB office.
There we were placed and locked up in windowed cages and we waited for the hearing. Very inhumane.
After a few of us had had the hearing, we were informed that we were under arrest and would be put away for two months until the trial. Alex burst out in tears. I started to lose the calmness and self-control I had been using the past couple of days, slowly but surely. Two months in a cell is one thing but after that? What comes after that? A sentence of a few months or a few years in a case based on lies?
Everything is completely against the rules. The things that the FSB is accusing us of are full of all of these inaccuracies and are things they are guilty of themselves. Nothing is certain. You just need someone at the top to think it and we disappear in the cell. Martin, the consul, said that I should stay calm because the Dutch have a good communication with the Russians. Good communication?? For what, I ask myself? Over the fact that the Russians illegally entered Dutch territory and pushed us into International waters so that they can violently arrest us? Is the Dutch Government demanding our release? Immediately? The Russians are not even allowed to arrest us and they still do it. They do exactly whatever they feel like.
I have no idea how this is going to end, or how long it’s going to take. The uncertainty drives me crazy. I heard that Putin publicly said that it wasn’t piracy. However his so called “general” has watered down some of the charges. But still we are in jail. 22 of us have been arrested, 8 of us held in detention for 72 hours over and above the 48 hours. They still have to get me and the 7 others a translator for the hearing, and I hope they don’t find one until Sunday because then I still stand a chance to be deported.