Fugitive Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson on Tuesday accused Japan of conspiring with Germany and Costa Rica to hunt him down in revenge for his attacks on its whaling operations.
In his first comments since jumping bail and fleeing Germany, where he had been under house arrest for two months, the militant environmentalist said he felt betrayed by Berlin because it had negotiated with Tokyo to extradite him.
Watson, who for years has harassed Japan’s annual whale hunt off Antarctica, was arrested in Germany in May for extradition to Costa Rica over a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.
Last week Japan confirmed it asked Berlin to extradite Watson a few days before the 61-year-old marine conservationist skipped bail.
In a message to supporters on the Sea Shepherd website, Watson said Costa Rica and Germany had been “pawns in the Japanese quest to silence Sea Shepherd”, which has for years clashed with harpoon ships in the Southern Ocean.
“We have confronted the Japanese whalers for eight seasons and we have humiliated them at sea and more importantly we have frustrated their illegal profiteering from the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
“This is not about justice; it is about revenge,” he said.
Earlier this year Costa Rica filed an extradition request for Watson, accusing him of “putting a ship’s crew in danger.”
He was detained for a week in Germany before being released on bail of 250,000 euros ($306,500) and ordered to appear before police twice a day, but he fled the country on July 22.
“I am very disappointed with the German government,” he said. “For me it is obvious that the German government conspired with Japan and Costa Rica to detain me so that I could be handed over to the Japanese.
“This was never really about Costa Rica. It has been about Japan all along.”
Sea Shepherd says the Costa Rican allegation stems from an incident when it encountered an illegal shark finning operation run on a ship called the Varadero.
It claims it was escorting the vessel back to port when the crew falsely accused the organization’s members of trying to kill them.
Watson, a white-haired Canadian national known as “Captain” to supporters, did not reveal his location in the message and said if extradited to Japan he would “never be released”.
“I am presently in a place on this planet where I feel comfortable, a safe place far away from the scheming nations who have turned a blind eye to the exploitation of our oceans,” he said.
But he indicated that he would continue to harass Japanese whalers.
“I can serve my clients better at sea than in a Japanese prison cell and I intend to do just that,” he wrote, saying that Sea Shepherd would sail on its ninth campaign against Japanese harpooners in December.
Watson, who is widely known in Australia from where he annually departs on Sea Shepherd’s pursuit of Japan’s boats, has claimed credit for having seriously disrupted Tokyo’s “scientific” whaling in recent years.
“I know the whale killing poachers of Japan will continue to exploit all avenues to find a way to stop me,” Watson said.
“I have, however, eluded them once again.”