Watson awaits verdict on Norwegian extradition attempt
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1997:
AMSTERDAM––Judge Van der Pijl of the
Haarlem District Court in the Netherlands on May 26 rejected
Norway’s April 18 request to extradite Captain Paul
Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society,
to face charges of alleged “reckless navigation” and “illegal
entry into Norwegian waters” during a July 1994 clash with
the Norwegian patrol ship Andennes during which the
Andennes rammed Watson’s vessel, the Whales Forever.
Watson remained at the Lelystad prison pending a
ruling on a further charge of allegedly sending a false distress
signal. A ruling is due by June 10.
“Even if he’s found guilty of that charge,” Sea
Shepherd international director of operations Lisa Distefano
said, “the public will be reminded that Norwegian commandos
dropped four depth charges, fired on our boat with cannon,
and sheared the bow off our ship by ramming us.”
A Sea Shepherd press release noted that the usual
penalty for sending a false distress signal is a moderate fine,
not jail time. Since Watson’s March 30 arrest in
Bremerhaven, Germany, on a Norwegian warrant issued
through Interpol, Distefano has reminded media that the
Sea Shepherds have received threats that Watson will have a
fatal “accident” if ever imprisoned in Norway.
The warrant sought to extradite Watson to serve a
120-day sentence rendered in a b s e n t i a against him and
Distefano in May 1994 as purported accessories to the 1992
dockside scuttling of the Norwegian whaler N y b r a e n a. A
German judge rejected that extradition request the next
morning, but Watson was arrested again on the same warrant
April 2 at the Schiphol airport in The Netherlands. The
Haarlem District Court did not reject the extradition request,
but asked Norway to bring forth all charges that might be
laid against Watson if he were to be extradited.
By the time the court rules on all aspects of the
Norwegian request, Watson will have already served up to
74 days of the sentence in absentia, making him eligible for
parole and enabling a ruling that he cannot be sent to
Norway to fulfill a sentence he has fulfilled––mostly in solitary
confinement, and on short rations, Distefano said, as
Watson had difficulty obtaining vegetarian food in prison.
An estimated 300 people rallied outside the courthouse
May 26 in support of Watson, upstaging smaller
protests held the same day at various U.S. marine mammal
exhibition sites by members of the Cetacean Freedom
Network. CFN leaders have been overtly hostile toward
Watson for several years due to his insistence that protecting
marine populations and the health of the oceans should take
precedence over single-animal release campaigns.
Thirty-three Norwegian whalers set out May 12 to
kill up to 580 minke whales, by far the largest quota issued
by the Norwegian government since it unilaterally reopened
commercial whaling in 1993, breaking the International
Whaling Commisson moratorium on commercial whaling in
effect since 1986. One vessel, the Senet, was damaged by
a May 6 predawn arson, and could not sail. The Sea
Shepherds in early 1993 scuttled the S e n e t, like the
Nybraena, at dockside, but also like the Nybraena it was
refloated and put back into service. The arson was claimed
by “Agenda 21,” a previously unknown entity.
Watson opposes the use of fire and explosives in
direct action protest, he explained in a March 1994 guest
column for ANIMAL PEOPLE and in his book
Earthforce! An Earth Warrior’s Guide to Strategy, because
of the inherent risk of harming people or animals.
Norwegian prime minister Tor Jageland, anticipating
his first election since he was named to succeed Gro
Brundtland upon her retirement, faces rising discontent in
the coastal villages his party needs to keep power, and
sought to bring Watson back as a political trophy. Twentyeight
whalers and four whale meat processing firms on May
22 sued his government for having suspended whaling from
1987 to 1993, to avoid a threatened U.S. trade boycott.