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Sea Shepherd hauls anchor, skips bail
Photo: DPA

Sea Shepherd hauls anchor, skips bail

Published: 25 Jul 2012 14:27 GMT+02:00
Updated: 25 Jul 2012 14:27 GMT+02:00

Environmental activist Paul Watson has fled Germany, breaking bail conditions, his lawyer confirmed on Wednesday. A court promptly reissued a warrant for his arrest and extradition to Costa Rica.

Watson founded the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd, which regularly battles Japanese whaling ships, and has also taken aim at shark finning operations.

It is presumed he skipped bail and left Germany on Sunday, when he failed to report to the police within the interval required by the terms of his bail, Frankfurt’s higher regional court said on Wednesday. Watson's lawyer informed the court he had left Germany "for an unspecified destination."

A spokeswoman for the German federal justice ministry said it was not aware of Watson's whereabouts, nor could it say whether he was still in the country.

"Since by fleeing, Watson has shown that he cannot justify the trust placed in him, the extradition process has been restarted," said the court, after deciding to resume extradition proceedings against him to Costa Rica to face charges dating back to 2002.

Watson is accused by Costa Rican authorities of "putting a ship's crew in danger" during a high-seas confrontation over the illegal practice of shark-finning - where sharks fins are harvested from living fish - in Guatemalan waters a decade ago, wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday.

Those aboard the Sea Shepherd "Ocean Warrior" vessel, which was filming a movie when it came across the fin harvesters, claimed they then attempted to escort the Costa Rican ship "Ocean Warrior" back to port. The Costa Rican crew has accused the activists of attacking them with water canon in an attempt to kill them, allegations Sea Shepherd denies.

Because the incident happened on the high seas, the Costa Rican authorities were able to issue an international warrant for Paul Watson's arrest via Interpol, wrote the paper. He is Canadian but also has US citizenship.

The 61-year-old, whom Sea Shepherd members affectionately call "the captain," was finally arrested on May 13 at Frankfurt airport in western Germany. He was detained for a week before being told he could leave custody - on €250,000 bail and the condition that he did not leave the country.

Meanwhile, the German authorities were to consider whether he should be extradited - a move which Watson had attempted to appeal on grounds of a procedural error on the part of the Costa Ricans.

Leader of the Greens’ parliamentary party Volker Beck said at the time of Watson's arrest that he should not be sent to Costa Rica as "it is to be feared that Paul Watson would not get a fair trial."

Beck also said it was not unlikely that the fact that Watson was being pursued so long after the incident pointed to a political motive.

Watson himself has previously suggested that Japan might be "putting pressure" on

Germany to carry out the extradition order and that he believes it is unusual to issue an extradition order for "a relatively minor offence, where no one was injured and no property damaged" - he claims.

On a visit to Germany in May, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla insisted Watson would have a fair trial if extradited to the Central American country.

In an interview with news wire AFP after he was arrested, the activist vowed that his campaign would continue even if he were tried and jailed.

"They hope that by getting me out of the way, they'll shut down our operations. They won't," Watson said.

"This is not about me. It is about our oceans and the ever-escalating threat of diminishment of the diversity of life in our seas. It is about the sharks, the whales, the seals, the sea turtles and the fish," he said.

AFP/The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:04 July 25, 2012 by zeddriver
It seems rather odd that this "captain" fears not being given a fair trial in Costa Rica. Yet he and his organization act as judge, jury and executioner against people and their ships that practice what the "captain" doesn't like. And broadcasts his ramming and sabotage of other ships.

Until Japan is finally pressured into stopping the whaling. It's still technically legal thru the research loop hole. And that needs to be closed through legal means. Not vigilante tactics.

You know what. I have a lot of drivers on my street that go to fast. So based on the "captains" ideals. I should just put spike strips in the road and hope the speeder crashes. Or put a chain across the road to damage their car. Of course if the speeder dies in a crash it's not really my problem is it? Because as we all know. The end justifies the means. Right?
16:32 July 25, 2012 by whiteriver
@zeddriver

your comment sounds silly when you start making exaggerated comparisons.

Remember what the bus driver told Rosa Parks "you can fight the system through legal means."
17:06 July 25, 2012 by Snapply
@zed

driving fast and hunting endangered animals is kind of a stretch to equate. Japan is illegally whaling and no government is doing anything. If vigilantes don't stand up for them they're all just going to die.
17:30 July 25, 2012 by Yeims
Watson's fears about getting a fair trial here are quite justified. My guess of a completely "above-board" process would have a probability of somewhere around 5 percent. Even the Presidenta here admits that "Costa Rica has lost its word of honor". And then there's the death threats by the very same persons who are pushing for the trial here. What most persons don't understand is that Costa Rica is a very corrupt country and moreover quite biased toward all foreigners.
18:43 July 25, 2012 by IchBinKönig
'What most persons don't understand is that Costa Rica is a very corrupt country and moreover quite biased toward all foreigners. '

Whatever, dude. This guy can hand out the punishment, he just can't take any. Its a one-way moral road for this hippie.

'Those aboard the Sea Shepherd "Ocean Warrior" vessel, which was filming a movie when it came across the fin harvesters, claimed they then attempted to escort the Costa Rican ship "Ocean Warrior" back to port.'

Both the Sea Shepherd and the Costa Rican vessel were named 'Ocean Warrior'? What are the odds??
20:21 July 25, 2012 by zeddriver
@whiteriver, Snapply

You don't get it do you. You can pick any crime or behavior that YOU don't like and that you think the government should be doing more about. And apply it with the actions that this guy is taking. I don't question where his heart is. The problem is that he has gone to far and has planted his head up his bum by partaking in vigilante justice.

Everyone opposed to this whaling should be at their governments door demanding action. Because when you take out your frustration on the people using a government loophole. Instead of pointing your anger at the government that created the loophole. You will in the end do a disservice to the cause.

How about drunk driving. Many thousands of people are killed by them all over the world. That must mean the government is not doing enough about it. And therefore it should be fine for me to extract my own justice upon drink drivers in the name of the victims. I think not. I should demand action by government officials and try to get them voted out of office if they turn a blind eye to the issue. I.E. your fired.
22:15 July 25, 2012 by AnimuX
First of all, Sea Shepherd is not a vigilante group or terror group. They don't hunt down and punish people. They don't threaten to harm or kill people. Instead, they commit acts of civil disobedience, vandalism, and sabotage in order to interfere with cruel and destructive exploitation of marine life -- often where international protections and laws are being defied by poachers.

If you ram a Costa Rican boat smuggling illegal narcotics in Guatemalan waters does the government of Costa Rica let the drug smugglers go free while heaping charges on you even ten years after the incident? Does the government of Germany then assist Costa Rica in these matters?

Pay attention. The crew of the Varadero was poaching sharks for fins. Shark finning in Costa Rica is an enterprise dominated by organized crime. In fact, these criminals are so brazen they've even openly threatened the lives of environmentalists without fear of consequences or law enforcement. For example, the recent incident where Gordon Ramsay attempted to film shark finning operations and was confronted by gunmen who doused him in gasoline and threatened to kill him. Costa Rican police simply told Ramsay to flee the country for his own safety. THAT is what Sea Shepherd opposed in 2002 when it attempted to bring the Varadero to justice.

Of course, the news media has also failed to mention that Japan is one of the world's largest contributors of Official Development Assistance money to Costa Rica -- over $140 million USD from 2006-2010. Japan's whale poaching also happens to be the subject of Sea Shepherd protest and interference.

This entire fiasco is the political persecution of an activist who has done nothing more than attempt to uphold international conventions and prevent the unlawful and cruel destruction of protected and vulnerable species. It makes absolutely no sense for Germany to recognize Costa Rica's request for extradition.

The nature of protest hasn't changed. Anger the establishment and you become a target. How often are influential activist leaders charged as criminals and worse by governments? How many of them are incarcerated? How many die in prison or as a result of assassination? Paul Watson has good reason to avoid Costa Rican jails.
23:01 July 25, 2012 by Staticjumper
@Animux, Paul Watson is a self-promoting media whore, ego-maniac and danger to just about everyone around him, friend or foe. If you¦#39;ve seen ¦quot;Whale Wars¦quot; then you know that ¦quot;Captain¦quot; Watson is a maritime moron who routinely puts his inept crew into harm¦#39;s way to serve his own ego. What you call ¦quot;civil disobedience, vandalism, and sabotage¦quot; I would call piracy if not attempted murder. It¦#39;s just a matter of time before he gets someone killed. Only Watson could make me root for the whalers.
23:32 July 25, 2012 by AnimuX
@Static: Just a matter of time huh? Over 30 years of activism and he's never killed anybody -- and never attempted to.

How many non-violent activists have been brutally murdered in the same span of time? Many hundreds -- if not thousands.

It's always the same from critics of Watson and groups that take non-violent direct action. They make all sorts of exaggerations and claim the protesters are like death squads aiming for humanity -- only the protesters don't kill people.

But poachers, criminals, industry thugs, corrupt police and military regularly slaughter activists in cold blood all over the world -- as if the protesters were animals -- and the same critics who claim to be against 'violence' don't utter a word.
23:53 July 25, 2012 by zeddriver
@AnimuX

Again, The basic concern he has for the whales is not an issue. The problem is how (he) deals with it. There are a lot of things in this world that I don't like. It absolutely does not give me the right to take matters into my own hands. He chooses to break the law to enforce an international convention. (which is not a law) I suppose you are a supporter of those that took matters into their own hands and spiked trees in America to stop trees from being cut down. Which ended up hurting people. I believe Watson was a member of that group. But I'm not 100% sure. And that's what so dangerous about vigilante types. They get so involved in a single issue. They don't know when to stop.

Even in the US it is advised that one should be very careful of getting involved in vigilante law enforcement actions unless a (person) is in danger of loosing their life if you don't do something.

Look what happened in Florida. I bet that the citizen patrol Zimmerman never ever said to himself that he wanted to shot a guy. He just wanted to protect the folks that lived that community. But things got out of hand, Zimmerman got in to deep. Confronted a guy. Now someone is dead. He wasn't a trained professional law enforcement officer. He didn't know when to back down and call it a night.
00:15 July 26, 2012 by Zobirdie
Living up to his Modus Operandi... This man has skipped out on minor things such as bills and bail before... There are people who fight for the environment that I have respect for... Paul Watson would not be one of them... he is a self serving wanktard with an ego the size of Jupiter.
00:24 July 26, 2012 by AnimuX
@zed: Let's start with your lack of knowledge of environmental protest.

TREE SPIKES never killed anybody. AND environmentalists who used them TOLD the logging companies about the tree spikes ahead of time -- enabling them to find and remove spiked if deemed necessary for "safety".

The only person ever seriously injured by a tree spike was an American who worked in a saw mill named "George Alexander". However, the main suspect of the FBI was NOT an environmental activist. The man suspected of spiking that tree was a survivalist nut who got angry when the logging company took trees off of his private property so he spiked his own trees! He also failed a lie detector test about whether he spiked trees off of his property.

Of course, that didn't stop the logging company from dragging poor Mr. Alexander all over the country blaming environmentalists. It also didn't motivate the logging company to compensate Alexander for his work related injuries -- they later fought it out in court -- or acknowledge the work safety issues in the saw mill that should have prevented the blade from shattering and injuring Mr. Alexander in the first place.

So we again end up with an accusation that doesn't match up with reality.

Including the incident where a logger felled a tree in the direction of protester named David Chain -- AFTER verbally threatening to do so -- and killed the activist only to walk away with no criminal charges.

Accused eco-terrorists: no kills... EVER

Criminals, industry thugs, and governments: environmentalists killed at rate of 1 per week on average for YEARS... accumulating many hundreds of kills
02:49 July 26, 2012 by ecology1st
Germany obviously has a corrupt government that's in bed with The Japanese Government. I will now be boycotting any goods produced in Germany! They new better than to arrest Paul Watson. Very shameful of the German Government.
07:44 July 26, 2012 by antiaunty
@ animux

""First of all, Sea Shepherd is not a vigilante group or terror group.""

Wrong - Watsons ex right hand man, a guy called Rodney Coronado - FbI's mopst wanted list and convicted of Fire bombing.

Jerry Vlasak, ex Sea shepherd director - Advocated assassination of people who worked in the animal vivisection field. Banned form entry to the UK.

The one time watson has a chance to stand up for what he believes in, what does he do? he runs like a coward
13:26 July 26, 2012 by zeddriver
@AnimuX

Fair enough. it was late and I should have done more research before I spoke. But I still say that even if he (Watson) means well. And I support "no whaling" The vigilante tactics he uses are not the right thing to do.

This is from wiki.

Those actions have included scuttling and disabling commercial whaling vessels at harbor, ramming other vessels, throwing glass bottles of butyric acid on the decks of vessels at sea, boarding of whaling vessels while at sea, and seizure and destruction of drift nets at sea. As of 2009, Paul Watson has said that the organization has sunk ten whaling ships while also destroying millions of dollars worth of equipment. Their practice of attacking and sinking other ships has led to reports of injuries to other sailors as well as the Sea Shepherd crew, including concussions and complications from chemical attacks.

Watson considers the actions of Sea Shepherd to be against criminal operations and has called the group an anti-poaching organization. Critics claim that Sea Shepherd's actions constitute violations of international law, while Watson has stated that Sea Shepherd believes that their actions constitute an attempt to enforce international conservation laws and international maritime law under the World Charter for Nature adopted by the United Nations . Australia has declared Japan's hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to be illegal, and federal court judge Jim Allsop has stated "there is no practical mechanism by which orders of this court can be enforced."The lack of official enforcement mechanisms in that law prompted the Society to adopt, without official sanction, what it sees as a law enforcement mission. A 2008 academic paper by researchers at Monash University concluded that the group "may be best categorized as a vigilante group, because they say they are seeking to enforce a legal status quo because of states' and the international community's inabilities or unwillingness to do so."

Sure meets the dictionary definition of a vigilante.

When one disrupts the actions of the whalers. That can be defined as civil disobedience. But when you delve into actual destruction of property, "according to Watson" His group has sunk 10 ships and destroyed millions of dollars of equipment as of 2009. That sir goes into the realm of criminal actions. And that is what I oppose.
14:57 July 26, 2012 by AnimuX
Oh I see. It's the property that concerns you now.

So do you also oppose slashing the tires on a bank robber's getaway car?

What about burning down an illegal meth production lab?

What about destroying a gorilla poacher's illegal snares?

What about blowing a hole in the side of a pirate whaling ship that's sitting in port with no crew on board -- a ship that's been illegally used to kill endangered and undersized whales from South Africa to Portugal?
15:37 July 26, 2012 by zeddriver
No!

The issue is that the united nations established a loop hole that the Japanese are exploiting. And because of that. It is not crystal clear that an actual law is being broken. That should be changed. And breaking one law to enforce another is problematic. As I stated earlier. even in the gun toting USA we as citizens are advised to be very careful when confronting any criminal. And that the only time we should get directly involved is if it appears that a "person" would loose their life if one was to not get involved. Even then it can be a tough call. Because as an untrained person. You may escalate the situation and make it worse for the person you are trying to save. Or endanger bystanders.

All bank robberies are illegal. There are no loop holes for forcefully making a withdraw for monetary research.

If i see a meth lab. I call the police. Burning it would create a safety concern for other nearby people and property.

There is no loop hole in the law concerning snaring Gorilla's for research. All Gorilla snares are 100% illegal.

Now. Should the international powers that be were to train and deputize or even have some official law enforcement on board Watson"s ship would be a great way to go. But first. The research loop hole that ties the hands of law enforcement needs to be rectified.
17:31 July 26, 2012 by Floriansamsel
Oh come on, zeddriver. Your belief and trust in laws speaks highly of you but it's also a bit naive. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as that.

It's not just the research loop hole that needs to be closed. Do you really believe that Japan and the other whaling nations observe the quota fixed in the agreements? Haha, take a good laugh.

People like Watson sail close to the wind. Of course, they do and they do so because they feel the need to do something and not just sit there and rely on diplomacy which works slowly or not at all. There is a nice Chinese saying: words don't cook rice. Paper tigers are nothing and Japan knows that very well.

For this reason, I fully agree with people who say that, sometimes, acts of civil disobedience are necessary because the existing rules and regulations are far too weak and nobody cares anyway. If there is no one to enforce the law it's useless.

BTW, we need not look that far because also here in Europe we do have laws to protect the animals but in praxis nobody cares. They are being transported alive from one end of Europe to the other under horrible conditions that clearly violate the regulations. Sure, there are EU regulations and freight forwarders risk high penalties but if you call the police it might happen that they don't even know. If you are interested, google this: Animals' Angels.
18:52 July 26, 2012 by AnimuX
It was illegal for Ghandi to organize a work stoppage and it was wrong to throw him in prison for sedition.

It was illegal for US students to organize sit-ins in protest of the Vietnam war and it was wrong that police beat them into submission.

It was illegal for the Iranian girl Neda to gather in the streets with her countrymen and it was wrong that government thugs shot her (and others) dead in the streets.

There are plenty of good examples in history of how laws are used to suppress protest and oppress people.

Especially considering just how often the rule of law is only casually applied to the actions of governments and industries that governments support for purely political reasons -- such as Japan's internationally prohibited whale poaching which is just the latest offense in repeated regulatory violations that trace back to the early 20th century.

Regardless, Sea Shepherd's direct action is merely civil disobedience in the form of physical interference -- not terrorism and not violent thuggery bent on harming people.

It's no excuse for Costa Rica and Japan to corrupt and abuse international extradition treaties to arrest foreign citizens over incidents in which they have no national jurisdiction -- incidents that amount to protest against internationally prohibited industries and criminal activities.
20:41 July 26, 2012 by DOZ
Watson is a typical canadian lefty with absolutely no respect for any authority. He is actually considered to be what makes Canada great, so most likely the Government had a hand in his departure, along with the German Government.
22:04 July 26, 2012 by Leo Strauss
@DOZ

D, are you suggesting that the Harper gov`t had a hand in helping `a typical canadian lefty with absolutely no respect for any authority` escape to freedom?
00:38 July 27, 2012 by zeddriver
@AnimuX

To be honest. I trust most politicians about as far as I can throw them. So hopefully, I would be standing by a cliff when I tried. But my problem with the vigilante aspect is that it does present something we in America refer to as a slippery slope. And all it takes is for a person to get overly zealous. Case in point. Rodney king. The cops beat this guy up. And of course the citizens of LA figured they needed to dish out some justice on some white folk. All because they felt that the government wasn't doing all it should do. The Zimmerman case happening now in Florida. Zimmerman got in over his head by confronting this kid and got to close. A fight takes place. The kid is dead. Zimmerman was overly zealous in his duties and shot a person.

The definition of civil disobedience is a person or group blocking a path to a building. Or gathering were they where told not to. As in a protest. Those rules they break are part of the civil code. But, When the group or person goes beyond disobedience and starts to break things. That elevates the situation to a criminal level.

I don't like it when my government breaks it own laws to enforce another law. I don't think citizens should either.

Just look at what the government did in Germany with bank information that was obtained illegally with tax payer money. But hey! it's OK says the court. Because the ends justify the means.

Look at what the US government has done with the patriot act. They totally ignored the 4th amendment concerning needing probable cause for search and seizure. And now routinely monitor email and phone calls just to see what might be happening. Vigilantism by the government.
16:04 July 27, 2012 by ForTheSea
Its a SAD SAD day when people from a so called civilized country prosecute a man (nay a hero) who clearly has an honorable motive. Save the Whales, Save the sharks...what could be more noble than that? What does he get out of it...NOTHING. He is doing what we dont have the guts to do. We all know Costa Rica is being manipulated to press these charges, anyone who dosent see this is a fool. Shame on Japan and shame on Germany.
22:07 July 27, 2012 by ovalle3.14
My neighbor parked on my space. I should knife his tires. It's a fair cause.
06:11 July 28, 2012 by ChrisRea
Interesting discussion. And I admire the fact that it is pretty civilised.

I notice that some folks over here call "civil disobedience" what Watson is doing. Actually civil disobedience is, as the name suggest, the refusal to obey the laws (in the general sense) of a government. So it means fighting against a government, not an individual or a company. And most of its form is non-violent, the famous example here being Gandhi.

What Watson is doing is called eco-terrorism (according to many national laws, including US, and to the point of view of NGOs like Greenpeace) and it is a felony . To be specific, we can take the example of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (2006) in the US: it is a federal crime to "cause more than $10,000 in damage while engaged in physical disruption to the functioning of an animal enterprise by intentionally stealing, damaging, or causing the loss of any property…used by the animal enterprise".

So what Watson is doing is not a misdemeanor (like civil disobedience), but felony.

Of course outlaws have a certain magnetism to some people. However, this does not make their actions legitimate.

Funny that Watson did not protest against whaling carried out in the US. Maybe because he would have much less chances of avoiding prison.

I also find it funny that, just as in the case of Animux, both ecology1st and ForTheSea joined TheLocal only to post on this thread.
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