ANDREW DARBY May 17, 2012
Paul Watson, Canadian founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in a file photo. Photo: AFP
Conservation group leader Paul Watson says he was surprised by his detention in Germany, and has pointed to "powerful enemies" of Sea Shepherd's campaigns.
In responses to Fairfax Media's questions relayed to him in a Frankfurt Airport holding cell overnight, Mr Watson expressed fears for his life in Costa Rica if extradition was granted by Germany.
But he said that, whatever the outcome of the case, Sea Shepherd's anti-whaling campaign in the Southern Ocean would not be deterred.
"In our efforts to defend the whales, we have made some powerful enemies, most notably the government of Japan," Mr Watson said.
Costa Rica has revived a 10-year-old case in which Mr Watson's then ship Farley Mowat was involved in a collision with a shark-fishing boat. The central American country has alleged navigation offences.
"I am surprised that Germany would consider extradition for an alleged offence against an illegal fishing vessel that did not cause injury, nor did it damage property," Mr Watson said.
Sea Shepherd said a long-lapsed warrant for Mr Watson's arrest was taken up again in Costa Rica last October, just as Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research initiated a civil case aimed at stopping the group.
"It is no coincidence that the extradition request by Costa Rica was issued the same month as the Japanese lawsuit against Sea Shepherd was initiated," Mr Watson said.
The group's spokesman, Peter Hammarstedt, said Mr Watson was doing well under the circumstances when they met overnight Australian time in Frankfurt.
He said that a General Public Prosecutor to the German Higher Regional Court had formally requested a preliminary extradition arrest warrant against Mr Watson on the basis of the local arrest warrant and request for extradition from Costa Rica.
"In a highly unusual move, the Public Prosecutor stated that the German Ministry of Justice and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs have the power to stop the extradition procedures on political grounds," Mr Hammarstedt said.
Sea Shepherd is still waiting to hear a decision from the closed court hearing, he said.
If the extradition request is granted, Costa Rica will have 90 days to file full papers to Germany to complete the request.
If it is not, Mr Watson would be freed.