Just let Keiron go
It's now three weeks that my younger brother Kieron Bryan has spent locked up in a cold Russian jail for a crime he didn't commit. He was seized, along with a group of 28 Greenpeace activists and a freelance photographer, by Russian armed guards while on board the icebreaker the Arctic Sunrise.
He was there simply to do his job: document a peaceful and non-violent Greenpeace protest against Arctic drilling in the icy waters of the Barents Sea.
Kieron is not a Greenpeace activist nor a Greenpeace member but a very talented film-maker who worked for three years at The Times newspaper before going freelance. It was in this capacity that he found himself on board the Greenpeace ship when it was stormed by Russian special forces. Along with the other 29, he now stands accused of piracy, a charge so ludicrous that even president Putin, when asked, refused to endorse it, saying that "obviously, they are not pirates".
Despite this, the Murmansk court has so far turned down all bail requests, including Kieron's. Given the hard line taken by the Russian authorities, we didn't have high hopes for his hearing, but the news still came as a blow to his family. We now face a long indefinite sequence of days filled with anxiety and uncertainty, and, what's worse, so does Kieron.
I never thought I would miss my brother so much, and yet I find myself thinking about him nearly every minute of every day. The worst part is not being able to communicate with him regularly.
The last time we talked to him over the phone was about three weeks ago, and the only contact we have had since is a solitary letter from him dated September 28.
Kieron is currently detained in Murmansk, a city located north of the Arctic Circle, where winter temperatures regularly drop below -20C (-4F). Until a few days ago there was no heating in the prison, and no hot water either.
He's sharing a cell with a Russian inmate who doesn't speak English, and has run out of books to read. Spending even just a few days in a place like this, not knowing for how long you're going to be there, must have taken its toll, even on someone as strong as Kieron, yet in his letter the first thought was for us, not for himself.
"Firstly, I'm so sorry you have to deal with this – in some ways I think it's harder for you all," he wrote. "I'm here and am adapting because it's happening to me. For you guys, life carries on almost as normal around you, and you have to deal with two worlds at once. I hope you are coping OK."
This is the kind of guy my brother is.
Kieron is a very kind, caring and fair-minded person, which makes the charges laid against him look even more absurd. When I first heard about it, I thought something must have been lost in translation.
An act of piracy involves violence and a motive of personal gain, and it's difficult if not impossible to see how this could apply to a group of unarmed, peaceful activists, let alone to Kieron – a freelance journalist who happened to be on the Greenpeace ship simply to do his job.
In his letter to us Kieron asked for one thing in particular, to "keep telling the world the truth – I'm a journalist, I was doing my job, that is all." And this is the message that we won't tire of repeating. Whatever you may think of Greenpeace's campaign against Arctic drilling, the global race to exploit the resources of this pristine region is now one of the great environmental issues of our time. And Kieron was right on the front line of it, documenting the confrontation between a team of determined environmental activists and Gazprom, the world's largest gas company. He was there to tell an important story, not to be part of it.
The only thing that makes the anguish of these days slightly less unbearable is to see the groundswell of public support for the Arctic 30 coming from all over the world, from ministers and politicians to civil society organisations and celebrities. Over a million people worldwide have written to the Russian ambassador in London urging the Russian authorities to release the people being held, and over a thousand journalists have signed a petition urging the same. Celebrities like Jude Law, Damon Albarn, and Vivienne Westwood turned up in front of the Russian Embassy last week along with nearly 1,000 others to show their solidarity. With the sadness that has affected us all also comes the determination to fight for him and help to secure his immediate release. We won't give until Kieron is released.