The environmental activist organization Sea Shepherd said their founder Captain Paul Watson has been detained in Frankfurt, Germany in response to a Costa Rican extradition warrant for "violating ships traffic".
In 2002 Watson's ship intercepted a Costa Rican illegal shark-finning boat, off the cost of Guatemala, in a campaign to stop widespread illegal shark killing. Among other charges Watson has also been accused of attempted murder, as the poachers claim Watson attempted to ram their boat.
However, Watson, who had been filming a documentary at the time, has video of the incident filmed by the crew that shows the allegations to be untrue. The charges have already been dismissed by one Costa Rican prosecutor, but have been recently renewed by a newly appointed prosecutor, leading to Watson's warrant and arrest.
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Captain Paul Watson was arrested yesterday in Germany for extradition to Costa Rica. The German police have said that the warrant for Captain Watson’s arrest is in response to an alleged violation of ships traffic in Costa Rica, which occurred during the filming of Sharkwater in 2002. The specific “violation of ships traffic” incident took place on the high seas in Guatemalan waters, when Sea Shepherd encountered an illegal shark finning operation, run by a Costa Rican ship called the Varadero. On order of the Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero to cease their shark finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted. While escorting the Varadero back to port, the tables were turned and a Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd crew. The crew of the Varadero accused the Sea Shepherds of trying to kill them, while the video evidence proves this to be a fallacy. To avoid the Guatemalan gunboat, Sea Shepherd then set sail for Costa Rica, where they uncovered even more illegal shark finning activities in the form of dried shark fins by the thousands on the roofs of industrial buildings.
Conservationists around the world maintain hope that the Costa Ricans will drop the charges against Captain Watson.
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Agance France-Presse: Anti-whaling group leader arrested in Germany
"I am currently being held in Frankfurt on charges from Costa Rica," tweeted Watson, who counts Hollywood stars Sean Penn, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Sheen and Sean Connery among Sea Shepherd's board of advisors.
"Court appearance in the morning," he added.
A report in Australia, citing Costa Rican media, said the activist, who claims to be a co-founder of Greenpeace, also faced an outstanding warrant for attempted murder during the same incident.
"The German police have said that the warrant for Captain Watson's arrest is in response to an alleged violation of ships traffic in Costa Rica, which occurred during the filming of 'Sharkwater' in 2002," Sea Shepherd said.
The specific "violation of ships traffic" incident took place in Guatemalan waters when Sea Shepherd encountered an illegal shark finning operation, run by a Costa Rican ship called the Varadero, it added in a statement.
"On order of the Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero to cease their shark finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted," the group said.
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Established by Watson in Malibu, California, Sea Shepherd – which has had a number of celebrity backers such as Pierce Brosnan and Martin Sheen – has been involved in numerous anti-whaling and environmental protection actions in international waters.
In 2006 Watson was involved in a "daunting chase" when his boat for weeks pursued a Japanese whaling fleet over 4,000 miles along the Antarctic coastline.
Sea Shepherd said: "Captain Paul Watson was arrested on 12 May and has made contact from Frankfurt airport jail. He has been given periodic access to his mobile phone and is being treated well.
"A fisherman accused Paul of trying to kill him, although it is evident that Paul did not and that evidence is on film. He said the warrant dates back to an event in 2002."
The statement added that Watson was scheduled to appear before a judge on Tuesday morning, and that it was unclear why the warrant had been re-issued.
Sea Shepherd said Watson was being assisted by Daniel Cohn Bendit, co-president of the Greens/Free European Alliance group in the European parliament, and José Bové, a group member.
"With Costa Rica's rich biodiversity, it would be a travesty for them not to stand up for sharks, which sit at the highest levels of the food chain assuring balance among ecological communities in the ocean," Sea Shepherd said.
"Paul is very touched by the concern on Facebook and Twitter and finds it very encouraging."
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