Watson Cleared of Two Charges

A message forwarded to us by the McLibel Support Campaign suggests that the Sea Shepherd's Capt. Paul Watson may once again manage to elude the forces who want to end his campaign against the slaughter of marine mammals.

The message follows below, but for those who are not familiar with Paul Watson or the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, here is some background information:

Earthfirst! co-founder Dave Foreman describes Watson as "the greatest Eco-warrior of all". When asked by an interviewer about his heroes, Foreman says "I didn't require a moment's thought to select my top-of -the-heap hero. There is one person who is in a class of his own in my pantheon of heroes. He is Captain Paul Watson...".

Foreman wrote those words in his foreword to Watson's book Earthforce: an Earth warrior's guide to strategy. In the same book, Watson writes his environmental curriclum vitae:

"Since 1977 I have headed the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society and continue to do so. In that time, I have lead three sea-going expeditions to oppose the Canadian seal slaughter, four sea-going expeditions to protect whales, two high seas expeditions to protect dolphins, five expeditions to oppose drift-netters, and one land-based expedition to protect wolces in British Columbia and the Yukon.

"During this time I was responsible for or oversaw the sinking of eight illegal whaling ships, the sinking of one sealing ship, the blockading of a Canadian sealing fleet, the destruction of a whale processing plant, the paint-bombing of a Soviet trawler, the ramming of two Japanese drift-net vessels, the ramming of a Mexican tuna seiner, the ramming of a Taiwanese drift netter, the closing down of a Japanese dolphin hunt, the closing down of seal hunts in Britain and Ireland, the landing in Soviet Siberia to document illegal whaling activities, and the interference in killing operations against marine mammals in thirteen countries. I was also responsible for inventing the tactic of tree-spiking to protect old-growth forests. "Most importantly, these things were accomplished without causing or sustaining a single injury to our opposition or my crew. Additionally these missions did not result in a single criminal or civil conviction against myself, my society or my crew.[Earthforce! an Earth Warrior's Guide to Strategy by Capt. Paul Watson, 1993, Chaco Press, La Canada, Ca.]

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Subject: Captain Paul Watson Cleared of Two Charges

Date: May 28, 1997

From: creuss@hitline.ch (Christoph Reuss)

This news story is from the Environment News Service: http://www.envirolink.org/environews/ens/ ---


AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands, May 27, 1997 - Captain Paul Watson, president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, prevailed in the first stage of his court challenge against a Norwegian extradition request in Holland, when two of the more serious charges against Watson were dismissed by presiding Judge van der Pijl on Monday.

"This means that Watson can not be extradited for his alleged 'reckless navigating' nor his alleged 'illegal entry into Norwegian waters'," says Sea Shepherd European counsel Victor Koppe, who is representing Watson during the hearing. "The Dutch court wants to take a short period of time now to reach a consensus on all the other arguments surrounding this case."

The court has up to two weeks to rule on the two matters remaining in the case, including the initial extradition request by Norway to have Watson serve a 120 day jail sentence imposed when he was tried "in absentia" for the scuttling of a whaling ship in 1992 in the Lofoten Islands.

Watson, a vehement critic of "illegal" Norwegian whale hunting, was detained in Holland on April 2, because a Norwegian warrant was issued for his arrest. "Apparently Norway feels it's a crime to be actively opposed to the illegal killing of whales," adds Bob Hunter, Canadian journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace, who is interim acting president of Sea Shepherd during this trial. "I guess that would make most citizens of the world criminals in the eyes of the Norwegian whaling interests."

"The decision by the court today leaves only the minor allegation of 'sending a false distress signal' open for debate," says Lisa Distefano, international director of operations for Sea Shepherd, "And even if he's found guilty of that charge, the public will be reminded that Norwegian commandos dropped four depth charges, fired upon on our boat with 50mm cannons, and sheared the bow off our ship by ramming us during that incident.

"The Dutch court will make a ruling on this last charge within 14 days - and in that time, Captain Watson will have already served over 60 days in prison on predominantly false charges," Destefano said. In Holland, Canada, the United States and most other European nations, launching a false distress signal is only penalized by a moderate monetary fine, not with a jail sentence.

"This initial verdict effectively means that the Norwegian government has just been rebuffed for sending a trite and insignificant extradition order to Holland. We are relieved that the court has recognized the threats against Paul's life emanating from Norway. This is clearly a victory for Paul and everyone else opposed to the Norwegian whale slaughter," adds Distefano.

While delighted with preliminary decision of the the Dutch court, Sea Shepherd members are still concerned that the additional deliberation -period may mean that the Norwegian government is busy lobbying the Dutch government with political incentives to extradite Watson.

"If Paul is sent to Norway even under these circumstances, it will be clear that this has become a political decision, not one based on the fair judicial process," says Distefano. "Just two weeks ago Norway sent 37 whaling boats to engage in their annual illicit and illegal whale slaughter for commercial purposes. It is time we put the spotlight back on the real criminals."

Although denied bail, Captain Watson spirits remain high. From inside the courtroom he could hear the 300-plus crowd who were chanting "Free Paul Watson" with sounds of whales singing being broadcast over a loud speaker.

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