Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson Convicted in Faroe Islands

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - Sea Shepherd International founder Captain Paul Watson has been found guilty by a court in the Faroe Islands for violation of immigration laws, illegal entry into Faroese waters.

The Faroese government was angered when Watson brought the Sea Shepherd flagship Ocean Warrior to the Faroes in July to protest the Danish protectorate's annual slaughter of pilot whales.

Watson

Canadian born Paul Watson founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)
The court has sentenced Watson to pay 300,000 Danish Kroner (US$37,000) or serve 60 days in prison.

Various recent reports out of Denmark have stated that Captain Watson was issued a three-day visa to attend the court hearing but chose to be judged in absentia, that he committed terrorist acts in Iceland, and that he is under order of expulsion from all Nordic countries for these acts, which took place in 1986.

Watson says he has a clear defense for all charges, but he was not allowed the opportunity to present it.

Faroe Islands Customs cleared his ship for entry into Faroese waters and issued the clearance papers to Captain Watson, he maintains. "All other entries were by right of innocent passage through Faroese waters without stopping. The Faroese did not refuse the right of innocent passage at any time," Watson says.

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The Ocean Warrior took Watson and more than 50 crew and media passengers to the Faroe Islands in July. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)
Watson says he was never served with papers notifying him of a court date in the Faroe Islands. Papers were apparently served on board the Ocean Warrior in Amsterdam when Watson was absent. He was not informed of the serving of the papers until after the court date.

Watson was never issued a three-day visa or informed by letter, fax, e-mail, telephone or in person that such a visa was available. Captain Watson did not choose to be tried in absentia.

The court did not inform Captain Watson of the verdict by telephone, fax, email, letter or in person.

Captain Watson was never charged with or convicted of any crime in Iceland at any time. But Watson does take responsibility for the sinking of two Icelandic whaling ships, half the nation's fleet, in 1986.

He says, "Since 1977, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society under my leadership has sunk eight whaling ships, including half of the Spanish fleet in 1980 and half the Icelandic fleet in 1986. We have saved thousands of whales and dolphins without causing or sustaining a single injury."

Watson says has no knowledge of an expulsion order from any Nordic country and has never seen such an order. When asked to produce this order, the Faroese authorities stated that they could not do so due to security interests.

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Aboard the Ocean Warrior, a Danish police officer serves Watson with two charges of illegal entry on July 26. (Photo (c) WOL courtesy Sea Shepherd)
Sea Shepherd Conservation International has written to the Danish Ministry of Justice to demand that Denmark provide Captain Watson with his right to due process, specifically the right to a fair and impartial trial.

"Denmark has blatantly violated Paul Watson's human rights," said Valerie Shand, Sea Shepherd'S chief operating officer. "Captain Watson demands both an apology and an investigation into the actions of the Faroese authorities who conspired to deprive him of these rights."

On learning of the convictions through the Danish media, Watson said "This was a kangaroo court with a political agenda, and they were not going to allow the presentation of evidence that would contradict the verdict they desired. The court merely rubber stamped a guilty verdict at the request of the police and the Faroese home rule government."

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Dead pilot whales lined up on the beach at Leynar, Faroe Islands, 1997(Photo courtesy Cetacea Defence)
"If this is Danish justice, then the Danes should be outraged," Watson said. "Their protectorate has set the precedent that an accused need not be informed of nor required to attend a trial if a trial in absentia is more convenient to the state."

The Faroe Islands have slaughtered more than 640 pilot whales this year.

While acknowledging that the annual pilot whale kill is bloody, the islanders say the whale meat is an essential food and the method of killing them is traditional. Small fleets of fishing boats drive the whales onto beaches where their windpipes are severed and their spinal cords cut with machete-like whaling knives.

The Danish government supports the right of the Faroese to kill the whales. European Union law protects only endangered species, and pilot whales are not listed as endangered.