Russia Releases American Boat Captain With Framingham Ties

The Greenpeace captain, whose sister lives in Framingham, had been held in a Russian jail for more than 100 days.

Credit: Greenpeace
Credit: Greenpeace
Friday night, Peter Willcox, the brother of Sydney Turner of Framingham, arrived at Logan Airport in Boston. The Greenpeace boat captain had been sitting in a Russian jail since September.

Willcox was captain of the Arctic Sunrise, a 170-foot Greenpeace vessel that was seized by Russian special forces on Sept. 19 in the Arctic Sea, about 600 miles from the northern Russian port city of Murmansk.

Willcox and crew were charged with piracy, following their protest against drilling by the Russian company Gazprom outside its oil rig in the Arctic.

On Wednesday, Willcox and the other Greenpeace members were granted amnesty by the Russian parliament.

Some believe the amnesty decision was to avoid criticism on the country's human rights record with the  2014 Winter Olympics scheduled to begin in Sochi, Russia in February.

“It wasn’t that being in jail was bad. It was the anxiety and fear of spending 10 to 15 years in jail,” said Willcox, 60, told the Kennebec Journal.

Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, on the request of Turner, sent a letter to the Russian government asking for Willcox and the other Greenpeace members to be released.

The piracy charges were lowered Nov. 10 from piracy, which carried a 10 to 15-year prison sentence, to hooliganism which carries a sentence ranging from no time in prison to a maximum of seven years. In Russia, however, sentences of less than eight years can be suspended.

The group, including Willcox, was held in prison for two months before being released on bail, just before Thanksgiving.

Willcox is now back in Maine with his wife, Maggy, the publisher of the Islesboro Island News.

Willcox told The Bangor Daily Newshe joined Greenpeace in 1981 after reading author Robert Hunter’s book about the organization, “Warriors of the Rainbow.”


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