SYDNEY – Paul Watson, leader of the Sea Shepherd environmental group, has accused Japan of being behind his recent arrest in Germany.
Watson is out on bail while authorities decide whether to extradite him to Costa Rica on charges of “putting a ship’s crew in danger” during a 2002 confrontation over shark-finning.
“I find it very interesting that the extradition order was put out in October 2011 — at exactly the same time that the Japanese brought civil charges against us in a Seattle court,” Watson told Australia’s Channel 7 on Tuesday.
“You know, Japan is spending a lot of money to try and stop us intervening against their illegal whaling activities in the (Antarctic) Ocean, and I wouldn’t be surprised if (Tokyo) was a part of this.”
The Japan Coast Guard said it has tried to “locate, identify or obtain information” on Watson through Interpol but would not comment on the specific case.
“The government of Japan has not received any official information about Watson’s arrest or release,” a coast guard spokeswoman said in Tokyo.
Sea Shepherd activists led by Watson have repeatedly harassed the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean in recent years and adopted increasingly militant tactics, significantly reducing their catch. Watson’s arrest May 13 in Frankfurt on a Costa Rican warrant stems from an incident in Guatemalan waters in 2002, when Sea Shepherd activists stopped an illegal shark-finning operation run by a Costa Rican vessel, the Varadero, according to the hardline group.
Sea Shepherd claims that a Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept it as it escorted the Varadero back to port, after its crew accused the group’s members of trying to kill them — a charge it strenuously denies.
“I’m under house arrest in Germany so will have to wait and see whether there is a political or legal solution to this and we will fight the extradition to Costa Rica,” Watson said. “But I think it can be resolved. Either way, our campaigns will continue with or without me so our ships will again go back to the (Antarctic Ocean) in December to once again obstruct the Japanese whaling operations.”
During this winter’s hunt, Sea Shepherd activists hurled stink bombs at whaling vessels in the frigid waters off Antarctica and used ropes to tangle their propellers in a series of exchanges that saw the whalers retaliate with water cannon.