Julie Bishop raises piracy case with Russians

5 Oct 2013 - 7:27pm

The Abbott government has told Russia it's concerned about the piracy charge levelled against Australian Greenpeace activist Colin Russell and it wants him treated fairly.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has met with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Bali.

"I registered our concern about the charges and also our desire to ensure that he's afforded full due legal process and consular assistance," Mr Bishop told reporters in Bali's Nusa Dua.

Mr Russell, from Tasmania, could face up to 15 years in prison if Russian authorities persist with the piracy charge.

He was among 30 Greenpeace activists charged with the offence for their roles in a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic Circle last month.

Worldwide protests are being held on Saturday for the so-called "Arctic 30", who were detained in the port city of Murmansk after their ship the Arctic Sunrise was boarded at gunpoint by Russian authorities.

A British-born Australian resident and a New Zealand man who lives in South Australia have also been charged.

Ms Bishop says she is taking a keen interest in the case, which is shaping up as her first major consular challenge since taking over as foreign minister.

She says Australian officials have met with Mr Russell in recent days and plan to do so again soon.

"I understand he is well, his conditions of detention are adequate," she said.

Asked if she believed the piracy charge was too extreme, Ms Bishop said: "We're seeking advice as to whether this charge is appropriate.

"I do note that (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin said in one press conference that they were clearly not pirates.

"It's a very serious charge.