Monday's hearing at the court on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos was a huge win for conservation and wildlife protection. It also sent a clear message to people intending to commit environmental crimes that their wrongdoing will not be tolerated.
The objective of the hearing was to analyze a bail request of German national, Dirk Bender.
There were two options for the judge to rule on this request:
a) To grant bail and set its amount with due consideration of environmental damage
b) To deny bail on grounds of public interest, seriousness of the case, or risk of escape.
In application of Article 176 of the Penal Procedural Code of Ecuador, the judge denied the defendant's bail request. This is the first time EVER that a defendant will be kept locked up in the Galapagos for an environmental case, and it is looking more and more like this case will set an important precedent.
Since we started the Legal project in the Galapagos, we have been encountering nothing but negative judicial decisions on environmental cases. In the 14 years we have had the Special Law of Galapagos we have never had a single person convicted on an environmental crime, regardless of the seriousness of some of these offenses. Monday's court decision, on the contrary, sends the right message to society: a message that the court will uphold the law to protect endemic species in the Galapagos.
As opposed to all the other cases we have seen in the past, this one will not be put on stand-by over the defendant's absence. The defendant will have to stay in the Galapagos to respond to the charges against him. Eventually the case will get a final ruling, which will be the first one of its kind issued in the Galapagos.
We celebrate this decision and congratulate all the parties that have been tirelessly working to get this case to where it is now: the Provincial Prosecutor's Office, the Galapagos National Park, and the Sector of Science and Conservation of which Sea Shepherd is a part.
We have been monitoring and providing legal arguments for this case and are delighted that the judicial system has sent a clear message that from now on, the Galapagos will act strongly against environmental crimes.