Paul Watson Will Be Released on Bail, But Must Stay in Germany Awaiting Possible Extradition

paul watson sea shepherd photo© Eric Cheng/Sea Shepherd

While the extradition proceedings continue in Germany, Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson will be released on €250,000 ($318,000) bail, The Guardian reports. Watson is said to be released next week but must remain in Germany pending a decision on extradition to Costa Rica.

Frankfurt's higher regional court announced on Friday that it had put him under preliminary arrest after deciding that an extradition would be permissible under German law. The authorities in Costa Rica now have three months to send the necessary extradition papers to Germany. However, the court said it was ultimately up to the federal justice ministry to decide whether or not to send him to Costa Rica.

Lead legal counsel in Germany for Watson Oliver Wallsach calls punting the final extradition authority to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs "absolutely unusual," adding, "I have never had this experience in all my practice in cross border cases," and it "gives a hint, that is not an ordinary extradition case, but to be handled [sic] also on the political level."

Because of the unusual situation, Sea Shepherd continues its plea for assistance in pressuring the German ministries.

Furthermore, Sea Shepherd continues playing up the potential personal danger to Watson should he be sent to Costa Rica to face trial, and up to 15 years in prison.

The Taiwanese Shark Fin Mafia has had a $20,000 bounty on his head for years. We know the arm of the Taiwanese Shark Finning Mafia reaches not just to the illegal fishing industry in Costa Rica, but also to the prison system there. Sea Shepherd fears that not only would Captain Paul Watson not receive a fair trial in Costa Rica, but he would likely not survive jail long enough to see the inside of a court room.

In Costa Rica, where local environmental groups and even some members of government are loudly calling for Watson's release, the Environment Minister René Castro is distancing himself from the proceedings saying "we cannot interfere with the work of other government branches."

Communications Minister Francisco Chacón echoed the sentiment:

We understand that Costa Rica's image can be affected, as well as the work of environmental organizations, but this issue is out of the Executive Branch's control because of separation of powers, and we hope that nongovernmental organizations understand this. (TicoTimes)

Though the incident in question is over a decade old and an initial arrest warrant expired, the whole affair was revived last October when a new arrest warrant issued. Sea Shepherd has drawn attention to the curious timing of this, occurring at the same time that a civil suit against the organization by Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research began.

This timing, rather than the facts of the case itself, is ultimately the big question in all this. Other than the fact that the statute of limitations on the case runs out in June 2013, why now?

Paul Watson Will Be Released on Bail, But Must Stay in Germany Awaiting Possible Extradition
Watson must put up over $300,000 in bail and stay in Germany while awaiting the final ruling on whether he will be sent to Costa Rica to face trial on a decade-old charge.

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