The following article was published on May 22 at surfermag.org.
(Reprinted with permission.)
Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson has been under arrest in Frankfurt, Germany, and faces extradition to Costa Rica for an incident that occurred over a decade ago when he apprehended an illegal shark finning operation off the coast of Guatemala. While Captain Watson was “released” Monday from Frankfurt prison on 250,000 Euro bail on Monday, he remains under house arrest during which time the German courts will consider whatever documentation Costa Rica is able to produce in what appears to be a case motivated by political agenda.
Captain Watson’s arrest is based on allegations of violating “ships traffic” in Guatemalan waters, after a clash in 2002 between fishermen on the ship Varadero who were illegally poaching sharks and the Sea Shepherd’s ship, Ocean Warrior. After apprehending the Varadero in Guatemalan waters on what Sea Shepherd said were orders from Guatemalan authorities, the fisherman accused Captain Watson of attempted murder. Watson was prosecuted upon return to Costa Rica and the initial charges were dismissed. A second arrest warrant was later filed but lapsed before it was mysteriously reactivated last October even after Interpol released a statement in which it said it refused in March to publish a Red Notice seeking Captain Watson’s arrest because its Office of Legal Affairs was not satisfied the request complied with Interpol’s constitution and rules.
Eleven-time World Surfing Champion and Sea Shepherd Advisory Board member, Kelly Slater, recently stepped up to the plate to rally international support for Captain Paul Watson in the surfing world. On Sunday he wrote:
“This situation cannot thrive if there is transparency. For example, connections and investments by the Chinese and Taiwanese with Costa Rican for infrastructure investments in Costa Rica, result in Costa Rica turning a blind eye to the shark finning industry and illegal fishing off the coast, all the while Costa Rica promotes ecotourism based upon the country’s biodiversity and natural beauty. If a light is shined on these connections, their ability to pull secret levers of power will evaporate.”
The incident in question was thoroughly documented in the award winning film Sharkwater, released in 2007, which brought world wide media attention to the hideous reality of the corrupt and brutal shark finning industry. A recent clip of the incident was issued by Film Maker Rob Stewart in order to prove Captain Watson’s innocence and be viewed below.
Added Slater: “The situation that we find Captain Watson in, now shines a light on these dark corners. It is literally now a simple choice by government, to overturn and release Captain Watson given that the entire incident where he confronted the illegal poachers was caught on tape. The video establishes the facts, and this calls into question the motives of those continuing to pursue Captain Watson despite those facts. No person or vessel was injured during the melee and Watson was following instructions from Guatemalan government officials while protecting natural resources under the UN protocol. He’s already paid a fine and been released, but someone still has a bone to pick with him somewhere else in the world, and they are wrongly being helped behind closed doors by some murky government power.
In the event that Captain Watson is extradited to Costa Rica, it is inevitable that he would not receive a fair trial, nor would his safety be guaranteed. Between the illegal activities of the Japanese whaling industry and the notorious shark finning mafia in Costa Rica, Captain Watson has made several formidable enemies throughout his 40 years on the front lines who seek to stop his highly successful efforts to uphold global conservation laws and defend marine life. The shark finning mafia, which operates illegally in Costa Rica, could easily try to harm Captain Watson and extradition to Costa Rica could result in what Captain Watson described in his own words as “a certain death sentence.”
On May 23rd day of action to Free Paul Waston is set to take place at German embassies and consulates around the world to encourage Germany to stop extradition to Costa Rica and release Captain Watson. On this day the President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, will be visiting German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin. Please see the Sea Shepherd Website for further details on events in your area. – Deborah Bassett
Captain Watson has given the majority of his life for the protections of those who do not have a voice and now it is our turn to be a voice for him. Please contact the two people who have the power to release Captain Paul Watson by respectfully contacting the following individuals:
Federal Minister of Justice
Platz der Republik
Telephone 030 – 227 751 62
Fax 030 – 227 764 02
Federal Ministry of Justice
10117 Berlin, Germany
Telephone: +49 (030) 18 580-0
Telefax: +49 (030) 18 580-9525
Dr. Guido Westerwelle
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Platz der Republik 1
Tel.: 030 / 22771636
Fax: 030 / 22776562