BRATISLAVA - Hundreds protested in Bratislava on Monday against the detention without bail of 12 Greenpeace activists who staged a protest at Slovakia’s largest brown coal mine, a move that the EU country’s president and premier have both criticized.
Protesters gathered in the city center touted banners saying “Activism is not a crime” and “Don’t imprison people who want to save your life,” among others.
The 12 activists were detained last week after hoisting a banner saying “End coal age!” on the tower of a lignite mine in Novaky, central Slovakia.
A regional court on Sunday denied them bail. The activists — from Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and Slovakia — are accused of criminal acts and face up to five years in prison if found guilty.
Slovakia’s liberal president, Andrej Kiska, in a statement Monday, was sympathetic to the plight of the detained Greenpeace activists.
“I don’t understand the court’s decision and I don’t understand how can we put activists into the role of criminals,” he said.
His words were echoed by populist left Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini.
“We should really consider whether it is the best solution to keep 12 young people in custody,” he wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.
Asked by AFP, Justice Minister Gabor Gal said that alternative ways of monitoring, such as electronic ankle bracelets, could be more appropriate in such cases.
“Our laws allow using these devices. I believe that the attitudes of prosecutors, policemen and judges have to change in this respect,” Gal said.
The environment ministry also criticized the pre-trial detention of the activists on Monday, saying on its Facebook page that “they were always decent, constructive and pointing out specific issues regarding environmental protection.”
“It’s the first time in the history of the Slovak Republic, that environmental activists are being held in pre-trial custody,” Ivana Kohutkova, president of Greenpeace Slovakia, told AFP on Monday referring to the court’s decision.
“No one was injured, there was no harm done to any property, this was a non-violent action,” Kohutkova said, adding that pre-trial custody is “usually used for extremely dangerous criminals.”