POLITICS

Extradition case against Cdn Sea Shepherd founder moves ahead, court grants bail

05/18/2012 01:08 EDT | Updated 07/18/2012 05:12 EDT
FRANKFURT - A German court has allowed a Costa Rican extradition request involving the Canadian founder of an anti-whaling group to move forward.

Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was arrested in Germany last week on an international warrant issued by Costa Rica, where he is wanted for allegedly endangering a fishing boat while filming a documentary in 2002.

Sea Shepherd said Friday that a German court granted a preliminary extradition arrest warrant to Costa Rica, but also granted bail for Watson for as long as his case is being considered.

"This is unheard of almost in extradition proceedings involving foreign nationals," said society spokesman Peter Hammarstedt, adding that the group had expected Watson to either be held for 90 days during proceedings or for the extradition case to be dismissed.

Also significant, according to Hammarstedt, is that the court has stated the final decision on Watson's extradition case will be made not by a judge but by Germany's Ministry of Justice.

Hammarstedt said that indicates the German justice minister or the country's foreign affairs minister can toss out the case against Watson.

"These two individuals can dismiss the case at any point in time," said Hammarstedt. "We've been asking our supporters in Germany, Canada and worldwide to contact those individuals directly."

Toronto-born Watson is expected to be released on bail of 250,000 euros on Monday, Hammarstedt said.

The money is being put up by a donor and Watson must remain in Germany while the extradition case against him is underway.

Watson issued a statement from his cell earlier this week saying his group has "made some powerful enemies" in its efforts to defend the lives of whales, sharks, seals and other sea life.

"Therefore the question must be asked why Germany is now taking into account accusations made by illegal poachers,'' he had said.

Sea Shepherd continues to maintain that Watson's arrest was politically motivated and is calling on its supporters to come together in a day of action on May 23, when the Costa Rican president visits Germany.