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Greenpeace activists fined for Calgary Tower mischief

Seven Greenpeace activists have been fined for the mischief they caused when they rappelled from the top of a tourist attraction and hung a banner criticizing the oil industry.

The aerial acrobatics last August at the Calgary Tower began when the protesters draped a banner that said "Separate Oil And State" from the bulbous observation deck. Police cordoned off several blocks around the downtown site.

The protest came to an end about two hours later when the last climber clambered back to the top of the 200-metre tower and was taken into custody.

Judge Allan Fradsham on Friday fined each of the protesters $2,300.

"I am completely satisfied the defendants knew what they were doing was a violation of the law and they were of the view that the making of their political statement was more important to them than the consequences," said Fradsham in a written ruling.

"The defendants made a conscious decision to violate the law knowing that breaking the law carries with it consequences."

He rejected a call from the defence for an absolute discharge. That means the protesters will have criminal records.

"It sends a clear message that it's inappropriate to commandeer private property for political purposes," said prosecutor Jonathan Hak outside court.

"Clearly this is a case where they wanted to get out their message, which arguably they did, but it did place their safety at risk, and also the safety of the police and firefighter authorities that had to deal with this stunt."

Greenpeace officials called the fine unfair.

"We're definitely disappointed that the court would prosecute individuals that are courageous enough to stand up to this government, that are courageous enough to stand up to these tarsands giants that are actively destroying our environment," said Mike Hudema, who oversees the organization's climate and energy campaigns.

"I think it's important to remember that this was a peaceful activity."

Thibault Rehn, 29, and Isabelle Charlebois, 25, of Montreal; Adela Sculean, 26; Zane Trevor Lewis, 36; and Steven Erich Anderson, 30, of Edmonton; Jeffrey Charles Harrison, 22, of Vancouver and Tom Verheaghe, 27, of Belgium had earlier pleaded guilty.

"I think it's harsh for a peaceful protest that was trying to draw attention to this issue," said Charlebois.

Greenpeace also said it has filed complaints with the Calgary Remand Centre and the Alberta Human Rights Commission alleging mistreatment by guards.

"Corrections officers in the Calgary Remand Centre used threats of rape and beatings to intimidate the peaceful activists who were being processed for release," said Hudema.

"They conducted multiple, aggressive strip searches as a punitive measure and hurled an anti-French slur against one activist." Charlebois said it was a frightening experience.

"What the guards were doing and the way they were talking to us was very aggressive and degrading. They were trying obviously to humiliate us."

A spokesman for Alberta's Solicitor General department said the Greenpeace allegations will be investigated and taken seriously.

In July 2001, two Greenpeace activists scaled Toronto's CN Tower in an attempt to draw attention to climate change.

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