Tue, May 15, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Sea Shepherd boss arrested

AFP, Sydney

The skipper of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s anti-whaling vessel Steve Irwin, Paul Watson, center, speaks to the media on his return to the port of Fremantle in Perth, Australia, for repairs and refuelling after spending time chasing Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean.

Photo: EPA

The founder of conservation group Sea Shepherd, which annually disrupts Japan’s whale hunt, has been arrested in Frankfurt for extradition to Costa Rica, the organization said yesterday.

Paul Watson, a 61-year-old Canadian national, is in a German jail after being detained over the weekend on charges stemming from a high seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.

“I am currently being held in Frankfurt on charges from Costa Rica,” tweeted Watson, who counts Hollywood stars Sean Penn, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Sheen and Sean Connery among Sea Shepherd’s board of advisers.

“Court appearance in the morning,” he added.

A report in Australia, citing Costa Rican media, said the -activist, who claims to be a cofounder of Greenpeace, also faced an outstanding warrant for attempted murder during the same incident.

“The German police have said that the warrant for Captain Watson’s arrest is in response to an alleged violation of ships traffic in Costa Rica, which occurred during the filming of Sharkwater in 2002,” Sea Shepherd said.

The specific “violation of ships traffic” incident took place in Guatemalan waters when Sea Shepherd encountered an illegal shark finning operation, run by a Costa Rican ship called the Varadero, it added in a statement.

“On order of the Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero to cease their shark finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted,” the group said.

It claimed that while escorting the Varadero back to port, the tables were turned and a Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd crew.

“The crew of the Varadero accused the Sea Shepherds of trying to kill them, while the video evidence proves this to be a fallacy,” said the group, which was set up in 1977 to campaign against the slaughter of ocean wildlife.

“To avoid the Guatemalan gunboat, Sea Shepherd then set sail for Costa Rica, where they uncovered even more illegal shark finning activities in the form of dried shark fins by the thousands on the roofs of industrial buildings,” the group said.

Watson, who has become internationally renowned for his daring and aggressive approach to conservation, was being assisted while in prison by members of the -European Parliament Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Jose Bove, Sea Shepherd added.

“Our hope is that these two honorable gentlemen can set Captain Watson free before this -nonsense goes any further,” the group said.

“Conservationists around the world maintain hope that the Costa Ricans will drop the charges against Captain Watson,” it said.

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