Sunday, 27 May 2012

Anti-whaling leader says extraditing him won't halt campaign


Marine wildlife activist Paul Watson, currently on bail in Germany pending a decision on whether to extradite him to Costa Rica, vowed Tuesday that his campaign will go on even if he is tried and jailed.
"They hope that by getting me out of the way, they'll shut down our operations. They won't," Watson told AFP in a telephone interview.
"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," the 61-year-old activist said.
Watson was arrested at Frankfurt airport on May 14 and detained for a week before being released on bail.
He told AFP he has been placed under "house arrest" and was obliged to report to the police twice daily.
"I want to make it very clear that whatever happens to me will not affect our campaigns," he said in a separate written statement emailed to AFP.
Watson is the leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose ships he said would continue to "defend sharks in the South Pacific, whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary" and dolphins in Taiji, Japan.
"Fortunately, Sea Shepherd is now much bigger than myself... and if I am prevented from serving on the front lines upon the high seas I will serve as a symbol of resistance to the destruction of our oceans from inside a prison cell."
Watson said he planned to travel to Berlin on Wednesday to participate in a rally by his supporters on the occasion of a visit by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla to the German capital.
"But I have to be back in Frankfurt by 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) when I have to report to the police," he added.



Costa Rica assures fair trial for anti-whaling crusader

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said Wednesday that anti-whaling activist Paul Watson would have a fair trial if extradited to the Central American country following his arrest in Germany.
"If Paul Watson is extradited to Costa Rica he will have legal proceedings that strictly keep to constitutional principles and the international standards which have to be applied in this type of case," she said.
Chinchilla, speaking at a press conference with German President Joachim Gauck during a visit to Berlin, stressed that her country had a "completely independent justice" system.
Watson, 61, the leader of the Sea Shepherd organisation noted for its muscular attacks on Japanese whalers, was arrested at Frankfurt airport in western Germany on May 14 and detained for a week before being released on bail.
German authorities are deciding whether he can be extradited to Costa Rica on charges stemming from a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002. He is accused of "putting a ship's crew in danger".
He said in a telephone interview with AFP Tuesday that he had "no reason to believe that the Costa Rican legal system would not give me a fair trial".
"My concern is not for the judicial system, but for the reality that the shark fin mafia of Costa Rica has a price on my head and a Costa Rican prison would provide an excellent opportunity for someone to exercise this lethal contract against me," he said.
"We have cost the shark finners a great deal of money over the last two decades and they want their revenge. I would need absolute assurance that the Costa Rican authorities would not place me in a position to jeopardise my safety when I return to Costa Rica to prove my innocence in court."
Sea Shepherd claims it was escorting an illegal shark finning ship back to port when the crew falsely accused the organisation's members of trying to kill them.


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