Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

South London Press column: Free Kieron Bryan - 8/11/13

Kieron Bryan is a young journalist from Peckham who’s being held in detention in Russia. He was arrested 6 weeks ago on a Greenpeace ship while filming the activities of the crew protesting against pollution of the arctic. Now he is in prison in Murmansk facing charges of "hooliganism" which carries a sentence of up to seven years.

Kieron should not be in detention and I am calling on the Russian authorities to release him immediately. He is not a criminal or a threat to the Russian state. He is not even a member of Greenpeace; he is a professional journalist who was working on assignment for them.

Since Kieron was detained, I’ve met his family and have been leading a campaign in Parliament to release him. I’ve brought together a group of MP’s who also have constituents detained, including the Prime Minister, David Cameron. We’ve met the Foreign Secretary, William Hague and Foreign Office Minister, David Lidington to urge them to do all they can to free Kieron. I have also asked for a meeting with the Russian Ambassador but he has not, as yet, been prepared to meet me.

We held a debate in Parliament on the 23rd October where I spoke about Kieron, and I’m now seeking a meeting with Baroness Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy leader, to let her know how much concern there is and to ask her to help get Kieron released.

His family have not been able to visit him and have repeatedly asked the authorities to allow a visa. A Russian prisoner on remand is allowed a visit from their family, but how much more does someone need a visit from their family if they are detained thousands of miles away from their home in a prison where they do not speak the language?

Most of the time, Kieron has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. His letters are brought in and he is allowed to read them, but then they are taken away. So he cannot even keep his letters to re-read what his friends, family and many supporters are writing to him. He has only been allowed one book which he has now finished. He was allowed one phone call to his family when he was on the way to detention. Since then, he has only had access to the phone once which is not acceptable.

It is hard to know how much information Kieron is able to get as he faces a winter in a prison cell in Murmansk so many thousands of miles away. But I have written to him to let him know that as his MP, I am doing everything I can to bring his plight to the attention of the Government and put pressure on the Russian authorities. His family will leave no stone unturned until he is back with them and I will do everything I can to make that happen.

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