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Norwalk Friends, Family Back Ship Captain Held In Russia

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NORWALK, Conn. (AP) _ Family and friends are showing support for a Norwalk man jailed in Russia over a protest last month near an oil platform in the Arctic.

A group gathered in a park in Norwalk on Saturday for a candlelight vigil for Peter Willcox, captain of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise that was seized by the Russian government. Joined by elected officials, they demanded his release.

Willcox, who grew up in South Norwalk, and the rest of his crew of 30 have been held since. They were protesting near a Gazprom-owned oil rig on Sept. 18.

His wife, Maggy Willcox, said she hopes the Russians will make a deal, fining Greenpeace and keep the ship. The charge has been reduced from piracy to criminal hooliganism, she said. It carries a seven-year maximum sentence.

Dubbed the “Arctic 30,” pictures of each of the imprisoned Greenpeace members were placed on the backstop of a baseball field for the candlelight vigil.

Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia said he received an email from the mayor of Gdansk, Poland, inviting him to sign a letter of protest to Russian authorities.

“We’re used to freedom of expression in this country and freedom of protest,” he said. “Obviously, other countries do not understand that.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he has been meeting with U.S. and foreign officials to release Willcox.

“You can agree or disagree with Peter Willcox, but there is no question that he should be free as we are today,” he said.

Willcox’s stepmother, Joan Willcox, said she spoke with her son a few days ago and informed him of plans for the candlelight vigil during their brief conversation.

“He said, `Oh, thank you very much,”’ she told The Hour of Norwalk. “He sounded very pleased by it.”

An international court has scheduled a hearing next month on the Netherlands’ bid to force Russia to release the ship and the activists who were on board.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, based in the German city of Hamburg, said Friday that a public hearing is set for Nov. 6. A ruling is expected a few weeks later.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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