NORWAY SEEKS WATSON EXTRADITION

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1997:

AMSTERDAM––Held in a Dutch maximum security
prison since April 2 on an Interpol warrant from Norway,
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson will
go to court May 26 in hopes of avoiding extradition on threeyear-old
charges of allegedly ramming the Norwegian coast
guard vessel Andennes, sending a false distress signal, and
trespassing in Norwegian waters, in addition to the charge of
being an accessory to the dockside scuttling of the whaling ship
Nybraena in 1992 for which he was first detained.
The additional charges were laid on April 18. The
District of Haarlem Court had on April 3 ordered that Watson
be kept on the Interpol warrant for 20 days to allow Norway
time to prepare an extradition case. That warrant, however,
asked only that Watson be sent to Norway to serve a 120-day
jail sentence he and colleague Lisa Distefano received in absen –
tia in May 1994 for their purported roles in the Nybraena sink –
ing. The vessel was later refloated and is still killing whales.
“Norway now claims we personally sank the vessel,”
Distefano told ANIMAL PEOPLE from the Sea Shepherd
offices in Venice, California, “but the Lofoten court record
notes, ‘The two were not in the country and could not take
direct part.’” Watson and Distefano had offered to go to
Norway for the trial if Norway would guarantee their safety and
agree to a change of venue from the Lofoten Islands, the hub of
the Norwegian whaling industry, which Distefano described as
“the source of numerous death threats against us.”


Watson’s arrest in The Netherlands, en route to catch
a flight home to the U.S. from Schiphol International Airport,
came three days after he was arrested on the same warrant by
harbor police at Bremerhaven, Germany, where he was supervising
preparation of a Sea Shepherd boat for a campaign
against Mediterranean driftnetters.
As it was Watson’s 17th trip to Germany and The
Netherlands since the sinking of the N y b r a e n a, followed a
year later by the similar scuttling of another whaler, the Senet,
he had not expected trouble. A German judge dismissed the
Norwegian warrant a day later, finding the offense for which
Watson was convicted too trivial to justify holding him.
From Bremerhaven, Watson proceeded to the nearest
airport, only to run afoul of newly energized wise-use politics.
Explained Distefano, “Last year, Norway’s pro-whaling prime
minister, Gro Brundtland, handed over the government to her
successor, Tor Jageland. For the past several months the High
North Alliance, a Scandinavian wise-use group, has been lobbying
Jagelandt to extradite and jail us. This is an election year
in Norway, and the prime minister,” facing his first election in
that capacity, “desperately needs the support of the politically
powerful coastal fishing and whaling industry.”
The Norwegian strategy initially appeared to be to get
Watson into Norway by any means possible, and then file more
serious charges, but the Dutch court obliged Norway to make
all their pending charges known. The extradition hearing will
thereby amount to a preliminary trial of the Norwegian case.
Ironically, the new charges all pertain to a previous Norwegian
effort to capture Watson––outside of diplomatic process.
“In July 1994,” Distefano recounted, “off the northern
coast of Norway, the Sea Shepherd vessel Whales Forever
was rammed by the Norwegian coast guard, fired on twice,
and four depth charges were detonated under its hull by a team
of commandos. Norway accused Watson of ramming their vessel,
but 10 journalists with international media were aboard our
vessel, saw everything, took video, and will testify for us.”
But Distefano remained more confident of the evidence
than of getting justice––especially if Norway does win
the extradition order. “If Paul is extradited to Norway, he will
die in prison,” she said. “Norway is going after the only real
threat to their plans for a vastly expanded whale slaughter.
They want Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd to go away forever.”
The international conservation and celebrity communites
rallied on Watson’s behalf. Toronto journalist Bob
Hunter, who with Watson was a cofounder of Greenpeace but
later resigned, mustered 100 demonstrators within two days of
the Dutch arrest. Paul Mitchell Systems CEO John Paul
DeJoria, actor Martin Sheen, rock star Mick Jagger, and at
least 20 other entertainment figures of prominence issued
prompt statements of support for Watson, as did Defenders of
Wildlife and the Sierra Club.
But many U.S. marine mammal activist leaders were
not only conspicuously silent, ANIMAL PEOPLE observed,
but were also downright gleeful when asked for comment that
Watson was jailed––largely because Watson has steadfastly
insisted for 20 years that the focus of marine mammal protection
work should be on preventing massacres of wild species
and safeguarding the ecological health of the oceans, rather
than on single-animal “freedom” campaigns, no matter how
attractive the latter may be as fundraisers.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *