Commentary by Captain Alex Cornelissen

Sea Shepherd crew approaches the VaraderoSea Shepherd crew approaches the Varadero
Photo: Sea Shepherd
Last Friday we were informed of a decision that gives irrefutable evidence that the case against Captain Paul Watson is political.

Since Captain Watson’s arrest in Germany, our legal defense team has been working tirelessly to gather evidence to get the Costa Rican charges against Captain Watson dropped. Our Costa Rican lawyer presented two excellent motions before the court and even a constitutional motion. All these proposals were denied with very weak justification.

Our latest motion was denied Friday. In this document we have provided a very clear argument that Captain Watson is being charged with a crime that does not even exist in Costa Rican law. He is being charged with danger to shipwreck with injury. There is no such thing as danger to shipwreck with injury. What is listed is: 1) danger to shipwreck, 2) shipwreck, and 3) shipwreck with injury. These represent three different crimes, all with different penalties. Captain Watson is being prosecuted for shipwreck with injuries even though an actual shipwreck never took place. We are not even arguing the absurdity of the so-called injury (one of the fishermen claims he slipped and broke his finger). We are arguing the wrongful application of the article in question, further adding that the article was drafted in the interest of public safety and public transportation. A collision (hardly a potential shipwreck) between a privately owned fishing boat and a Sea Shepherd vessel certainly does not fall in that category (we are not even arguing who was at fault).

The case has gone from strange to absurd by the latest court decision. Their argument is that the case has to go to court before they are even willing to make a decision.

Let me get this clear: Captain Watson has to show up in Costa Rica to be placed in jail awaiting his trial to defend himself against a crime that does not even exist in Costa Rican law? What guarantee does he have that he will receive a fair trial if the basic principles of Costa Rican law are not even honored by their own courts? And how clear will it be that, even if we do win the case, an extradition to Japan is imminent. How much time away from his crucial work will it cost Captain Watson? I think we all agree he has more pressing matters to attend to. How much money do we have to spend to defend Captain Watson against these unlawful charges?

Further adding to the absurdity of this case is the decision from the German court to refuse to drop the arrest warrant for Captain Watson. An arrest warrant that, according to German law, can only be maintained if Captain Watson is actually in Germany. The German court is arguing that it is not certain that Captain Watson actually has left Germany. I am confused, who is that man on the Steve Irwin? I could have sworn it was Captain Watson.

Maintaining an arrest warrant for someone who is not even in a country is like issuing an arrest warrant for everybody on the Interpol red list, regardless of where they are. The whole thing is absurd and unnecessary, let alone unprecedented.

The case is being stalled and the courts are refusing to listen to our argument, even though it should be crystal clear to them. What is crystal clear to us, is that this has never been about justice, this has always been political, a way to shut us down, a way to keep us busy in the courts, a way to raise our legal expenses and therefore lower our campaign funds.

This tactic doesn’t really seem to work, quite the opposite actually. What has happened since Captain Watson’s arrest is growing worldwide support for our cause, the purchase of another vessel for our fleet (and how ironic is its origin), Captain Watson joining our fleet in time to lead the campaign, and just this Friday I received the news that Sea Shepherd officially has been inscribed as an NGO in Costa Rica.

It is more than clear that we have the support of people around the world, but at the same time it is clear that governments are not listening to their own people. Then again, what is new?

Supporters in Germany at an S.O.S day gathering in honor of Captain WatsoSupporters in Germany at an S.O.S day gathering in honor of Captain Watson
Photo: Sea Shepherd

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