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Danish court verdict recognises Greenpeace activists’ right to peaceful protest


Copenhagen, – A Danish court today recognised both the peaceful and political nature of a Greenpeace protest during the failed 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, by sentencing eleven activists to 14-day suspended sentence, considerably less than the harsh penalties demanded by the state.

The Copenhagen City Court found the activists, from eight countries, guilty of trespass, falsification of documents, and impersonating a public official, but not guilty of having committed an offence against Denmark’s Queen [2]. In addition to the 14-day suspended jail sentences, Greenpeace Nordic was fined DKR 75,000 (€10,000), much less than was demanded by the public prosecutor [3].

Two of the three judges took into consideration that the activists carried out a peaceful act of political protest, and made clear that they acknowledged the debate-generating nature of the protest and its political context.

“This is a victory for freedom of expression - the court has clearly recognised the importance of peaceful protest in our society, and of standing up for what you believe in”, said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo, ”Too much time and money has been wasted trying to prosecute peaceful activists, while the real crime was the failure by 120 heads of state, who attended the Copenhagen climate summit, to seize the day and agree a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty that would avert climate chaos. They are the ones that got clean away”.

In December 2009, on the last evening of the Copenhagen Climate Summit, three Greenpeace activists walked up the red carpet at a state banquet, where they unfurled a banner calling on the 120 world leaders in attendance to take urgent climate action. The banner read “Politicians Talk, Leaders Act”. The three activists were immediately arrested, and along with a Greenpeace climate campaigner, spent 20 days in prison, over Christmas and New Year.

“With this case finally over, we can give our complete attention to the important tasks that lie ahead”, says Nora Christiansen, one of the activists. “With the Durban climate meeting fast approaching, world leaders must not repeat the failures of Copenhagen, but instead take strong and urgent action for the climate”.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

[1] On December 17th 2009, as the COP15 Climate Summit in Copenhagen limped towards failure - but still had the chance to deliver a global climate deal, Juan Lopéz de Uralde (Spain) dressed as a head of state of “The Natural Kingdom”, Nora Christiansen (Denmark/Norway) as his wife, and Christian Schmutz (Switzerland) as their bodyguard entered the royal dinner for more than 120 heads of states at the Parliament Building. As world leaders arrived, the activists unfurled banners reading: ’Politicians Talk – Leaders Act’, urging the gathered politicians to save the climate. The three activists, along with and climate campaigner Joris Thijssen (Netherlands) were detained for 20 days over Christmas and New Year. The other defendants took part in the limousine convoy: Morten Rasmussen (Denmark), Victor Rask (Denmark/Sweden), Guilhem de Crombrugghe (Belgium), Anders Redelius (Sweden) and Thomas Müller (Switzerland). Climate campaigners Melanie Francis (UK) and Dima Litvinov (Sweden/US) are also convicted.

[2]The use of the Queen’s paragraph, paragraph 115, was in this case approved personally by Denmark’s Justice Minister. The provision of the Danish Criminal Code increases the penalty of the charges to which it is applied.

[3] The Danish prosecutor asked the court to give 60-day suspended sentences plus DKR 3,000 fines for all activists except for one (70 days and 5,000), and in that case he is looking for 70 days suspended sentence plus DKR 5,000. The prosecutor also asked for the deportation for the eight non–Danish resident defendants, and a ban on returning for six years. Finally, the prosecutor asked that Greenpeace Nordic be fined 200,000 Kroner, a quadrupling of the previous fine and much higher than expected.


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