WASHINGTON - May 19 - Today, the U.S. District Court of Miami threw out charges against non-profit organization Greenpeace for violating an obscure 1872 maritime law. Judge Adalberto Jordan ended the frivolous and politically motivated criminal prosecution of Greenpeace by ruling that there was insufficient evidence for the case to go to the jury.
"Nothing better illustrates the frivolous nature of this prosecution than the fact the judge threw the case out without even needing to hear from the defense," said David Bookbinder, Sierra Club's Washington Legal Director.
In April 2002, Greenpeace activists boarded a ship off the Florida coast that was transporting mahogany illegally exported from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Their objective was to hang a banner from the ship that read: "President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging." The U.S. authorities intervened and arrested the Greenpeace activists.
After successfully prosecuting the activists, the Bush administration then decided to prosecute the entire organization under an obscure 1872 piracy statute. This law was initially passed to prevent "sailor mongering" or the activity where brothels and bars would attempt to lure sailors ashore with alcohol, women and violence before the ship reached port. The last time a court considered this statute was in 1890 -- over 113 years ago.
"The fact that the Bush administration would dig up an antiquated and utterly inappropriate statute in order to prosecute a non-violent advocacy organization is political intimidation of the highest order," said Bookbinder. "We wish that the Bush administration would have devoted the time and money spent on this case to instead focusing more on the central issue -- stopping the import of illegally harvested timber."