June 13 was one month since Captain Paul Watson was detained and arrested at Frankfurt Airport in Germany on an extradition warrant from Costa Rica that had been dismissed as being politically motivated by Interpol.
Beginning May 13, Captain Watson was kept in a prison cell for eight days until released on May 21 on a 250,000 Euro bond. He was ordered by a German court to report to the police station twice a day in Frankfurt and not to leave the borders of Germany. During the last few weeks, Captain Watson, although confined to Germany, has seen an international protest against his detainment grow stronger every day, with hundreds of thousands of people petitioning Germany and Costa Rica for his release.
Numerous celebrities have spoken out and sent video statements to the governments and the media including Pierce Brosnan, Pamela Anderson, Brigitte Bardot, Michelle Rodriguez, John Paul DeJoria, Anthony Kiedis, Jose Bove, Daniel Cohn Bendit, Rutgar Hauer, Martin Sheen, Ian Somerhalder, Zach Callison, Perry Reeves, Bob Barker, Richard Dean Anderson, Kelly Slater, Xavier Rudd and the former Environment Ministers of Australia, British Columbia and Costa Rica.
In addition, Captain Watson received support from the Brazilian Senate, the Senate of France, the Green Party of Australia, France and Germany and the European Parliament. Captain Watson was also invited by the Rock group Gojira to address the crowd of 150,000 people at the Rock am Ring Concert in Germany. The President of Costa Rica visited Germany on May 23 – the same day that people around the world held demonstrations at German embassies and consulates with 400 people protesting in Berlin to greet the Costa Rican president. Two days later, the Costa Rican Foreign Minister invited Captain Watson to Stuttgard. The Foreign Minister said it was a judicial matter that the government could not interfere with.
It is overall a strange situation. A warrant is issued on the word of fishermen caught on camera illegally finning shark in Guatemalan waters where the Guatemalan government had authorized Captain Watson to intervene. The sharkfinning operation was shut down. No one was injured and there was no property damage. All of his happened a decade ago and at no time was Captain Watson ever informed there were charges against him until May 13, when he was arrested at Frankfurt airport.
On January 8, 2011, biologist Jorge Ballestro from the Costa Rican organization PRETOMA attempted to expose continued shark finning in Puntarenas, Costa Rico. He attempted to videotape a large quantity of shark fins being dried on racks and on the ground at a dock on the east side of the Puntarenas Municipal Market. According to PETROMA’s report , Ballestro was physically confronted and threatened by a group of five men who tried to take his camera and forced him to flee into the market. When a police patrol got involved, the officers sided with the criminals. However, another environmentalist was able to record the evidence.
In a similar confrontation, without the presence of police, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay was also threatened by a gang of shark finning criminals who doused him with gasoline and held him at gunpoint. Ramsay was simply told by Costa Rican authorities to flee the country for his own safety. The police did not respond and charges were never laid for armed assault by these poachers, yet a mere allegation without documentation has resulted in an extradition order for Captain Watson.
Captain Watson is not opposed to standing trial in Costa Rica. The entire incident was documented on film for the award winning film “Sharkwater” and there were 25 witnesses on the Sea Shepherd vessel Ocean Warrior to the events. What Captain Watson is opposed to is extradition where he could be forced into detention for up to a year waiting for a trial date to be set. Captain Watson suggested to the Costa Rican Foreign Minister that they drop the extradition order and set a trial date and he would voluntarily appear for the trial. In the meantime, Captain Watson’s attorney in Costa Rica has filed a motion to dismiss the extradition order on the grounds that no attempt was ever made to inform Captain Watson that he was wanted on any charges.
After eight days in a German prison and three weeks under house arrest, Captain Watson has turned the focus on the much more important issue of illegal shark finning operations.
“This is the perfect opportunity to focus international attention on the worldwide illegal slaughter of tens of millions of sharks. The shark fin trade is very wealthy and I have made some very powerful enemies over the years amongst whalers, sealers, shark finners and tuna poachers,” he said. “Maybe a trial is what is needed to further expose the horrific massacre of sharks and the Costa Rican connection to this international criminal operation.
“Costa Rica may find that by putting me on trial that they will be putting Costa Rica on trial.”
Watson is the author of a number of books on his fights to end poaching and other illegal ocean activities including: Sea Shepherd: My Fight for Whales and Seals, Earthforce! An Earth Warrior’s Guide to Strategy, Seal Wars: Twenty-five Years on the Front Lines with the Harp Seals and many more.
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