Japan unlikely to land Watson despite arrest in Germany


Staff Writer

The arrest of Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson in Frankfurt on Sunday is unlikely to lead to his arrest by Japan for a combination of reasons, one being that Tokyo does not have an extradition treaty with Berlin, according to Toru Chochi, a Japan Coast Guard official.

Also, the type of notice Interpol issued does not guarantee Watson’s extradition but only means that member countries, including Japan, are to share information on him, Chochi said.

German police arrested Watson and he is likely to be extradited to Costa Rica at a later date. Costa Rican police accuse him of obstruction of shark-finning operations as well as attempted murder during a confrontation with shark fishermen in 2002.

Japan, which in recent years has faced disruptions from the Sea Shepherd conservation group for its whale hunts, does not have an extradition treaty with either Germany or Costa Rica, and therefore those countries are not obliged to extradite him here, Chochi said.

Even if the coast guard receives information on Watson’s whereabouts, the government is unlikely to send investigators to Germany or Costa Rica because the allegations Japan has leveled against him are not serious, Chochi said.

Coast guard or police officials from Japan will only visit a suspect in a foreign country if the alleged crimes involve murder, rape or other serious matters, Chochi added.

Watson is accused of conspiring with Sea Shepherd member Peter Bethune, who was sentenced to a suspended prison term by the Tokyo District Court in July 2010. Bethune was found guilty of illegally boarding a Japanese whaling ship, assaulting a whaler, damaging the ship and obstructing whalers while they were working.

Putting someone on an international wanted list can mean different things, depending on what type of notice Interpol issues.

Japan asked Interpol to issue the so-called Blue Notice for Watson in June 2010. Such a notice demands member countries, including Japan, share information about Watson, Chochi said.

A Red Notice, which demands that all 190 countries that have joined Interpol cooperate on extradition requests from other member countries, was requested, but Interpol rejected that.

Interpol “would not publish a Red Notice seeking the arrest of Paul Watson because its Office of Legal Affairs was not satisfied that the request was in compliance with Interpol’s constitution and rules,” Interpol said in a news release dated March 2.

“Interpol does not itself issue arrest warrants. At the request of a member country it can publish a Red Notice, or international wanted persons alert. A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant, nor can Interpol demand that any member country arrest the subject of a Red Notice,” Interpol said in the release.

Sea Shepherd activists have been disturbing Japanese whalers working in the Southern Ocean in recent years, and the radical organization sees that as one of its most important missions. Due to being hounded by Sea Shepherd boats, Japanese whalers have failed to catch as many whales as planned over the last few years.

It is unknown how Watson’s arrest will impact Japan’s research whaling in the Antarctic. It will hinge on how long Watson is detained and whether other Sea Shepherd members continue to harass the whaling fleet.