Defiant fugitive Sea Shepherd founder claims Japan is out for revenge

AFP-JIJI, JIJI

Fugitive Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson on Tuesday accused Japan of conspiring with Germany and Costa Rica to hunt him down in revenge for his attacks on its whaling operations.

In his first comments since jumping bail and fleeing Germany, where he was under house arrest, the militant environmentalist said he felt betrayed by the German government because it had negotiated with the Japanese government to extradite him.

Watson, who for years has harassed Japan’s annual whale hunt off Antarctica, was arrested in Germany in May for extradition to Costa Rica over a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.

Japan confirmed last week it asked Germany to extradite Watson a few days before the 61-year-old marine conservationist skipped bail.

In a message to supporters on the Sea Shepherd website, Watson said Costa Rica and Germany had been “pawns in the Japanese quest to silence Sea Shepherd.”

“We have confronted the Japanese whalers for eight seasons and we have humiliated them at sea and more importantly we have frustrated their illegal profiteering from the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” the message states. “This is not about justice; it is about revenge.”

Costa Rica filed its extradition request for Watson earlier this year, accusing him of “putting a ship’s crew in danger.”

He was detained for a week in Germany before being released on bail of €250,000 (about ¥24 million) and ordered to appear before police twice a day, but he fled the country July 22.

“I am very disappointed with the German government,” Watson’s message states. “For me it is obvious that the German government conspired with Japan and Costa Rica to detain me so that I could be handed over to the Japanese.

“This was never really about Costa Rica. It has been about Japan all along.”

The message was sent from Watson to Sea Shepherd headquarters over the weekend, according to the website. It does not reveal his present location.

Watson said he was informed by reliable sources that Japan had asked Germany to extradite him while he was on bail.

“There is the absolute certainty that once in Japanese custody, I will never be released,” the message states. “That certainty meant that there could only be one option: I made the decision to depart Germany immediately.”

Sea Shepherd says the Costa Rican allegation stems from an incident when it encountered an illegal shark finning operation run on a ship called the Varadero. It claims it was escorting the vessel back to port when the crew falsely accused the organization’s members of trying to kill them.

Watson indicated he will continue to harass Japanese whalers.

“I can serve my clients better at sea than in a Japanese prison cell and I intend to do just that,” he wrote, saying Sea Shepherd will sail on its ninth campaign against the Japanese hunt in December.

“I know the whale killing poachers of Japan will continue to exploit all avenues to find a way to stop me,” the message says. “I have, however, eluded them once again.”