Arrested Greenpeace activist Alex Harris. Photo: Greenpeace International
A Greenpeace activist from Australia was denied medical attention while suffering from stomach pains in a Russian jail, she claimed on Friday.
Alexandra Harris, a communications officer originally from Devon but who now lives in Sydney, became the fifth Briton facing piracy charges to be denied bail since being arrested during a Greenpeace action against a Russian oil platform in the Arctic last month.
A sixth Briton, Ian Rogers, a ship's engineer, will have a hearing next week. They are among 30 people from 18 countries who have been taken into custody, facing possible prison sentences of up to 15 years.
Dressed in jeans, a purple sweater and trainers, Miss Harris, 27, held back tears as she was led away after a judge denied bail in a cramped room in the Oktyabrsky district court in central Murmansk yesterday morning.
"I feel like all my rights have been denied and I shouldn't be here, really," she told The Daily Telegraph from the courtroom cage during a brief break in proceedings.
Miss Harris was being held alone in a cell and was only allowed out "once a day to walk in a concrete block". "There are lots of cracks in the [cell] window, and it can get very cold when it is windy," she said. "The food is disgusting, but I've got used to it now. I can get through about a third of my meals."
Earlier, while addressing the court, she said: "I have been in prison for 22 days for a crime I did not commit. Furthermore, I have not seen any document showing my involvement in such a crime.The only thing that happened was peaceful protest and I believe the video evidence and Greenpeace's long history will prove this."
The judge was unmoved, however, rejecting the applications for bail despite the defence offering character references and around pounds 19,000 in bail money.
Temperatures dropped to 21F (-6C) in the Arctic port town yesterday, raising concerns about the prisoners' health as winter approaches. Miss Harris told the court that requests for medical attention - including one passed via a visiting British diplomat - had been ignored.
"In the first week of incarceration I had intense stomach pains," she told the court. "A lady [a human rights worker] came and I asked if I could see a doctor. I was there when she told the guard and he wrote it in his notebook. A doctor never came. Three days later I saw the consul and asked to see a doctor again. He promised to tell the prison, but a doctor never came."
Speaking from the family home in Dolton, Devon, Miss Harris's father, Cliff, 63, said they remained hopeful for her release.
"She rang one evening, about six or seven days ago, and spoke to my wife and it made us feel better because she's being very positive and is dealing with it very well," he said. "[Hopeful] is all we can be. We're trying to stay positive and we're getting letters from her now too. She sounds still very worried about the future but she's adapting to life in prison and she's doing better than I thought she would. We're very proud of her."
The news that she had been denied bail was not a surprise, he added.
The family met with Foreign Office officials on Wednesday.