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Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd founder, skips bail in Germany


Paul Watson, Canadian founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a direct action group for marine conservation. He has been arrested in Germany on a warrant issued by Costa Rica in 2002.


Gerard Julien

BERLIN, Germany — Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd, has skipped bail and fled to an undisclosed location.

The militant anti-whaling activist has been off the radar since Sunday, when according to The Guardian he failed to report to authorities in Frankfurt, central Germany, as required by the terms of his release.

Watson's attorney says he has spoken by telephone to his client, who informed him that he had left Germany but did not reveal where he'd gone, according to a court statement cited by the Associated Press.

Regional judges have issued a warrant for his re-arrest.

Watson had been on bail since May, shortly after he was arrested at Frankfurt Airport on a warrant from Costa Rica. He is accused of endangering the crew of a Costa Rican ship during a 2002 Sea Shepherd operation to prevent them from, allegedly, hunting sharks for their fins.

German authorities were due to decide shortly whether to grant Costa Rica's request and extradite Watson there. If they had, he could have faced another danger: extradition to Japan.

Sea Shepherd's administrative director, Susan Hartland, claims a "reliable source" informed the group that Japan would seek to prosecute Watson over attempts to obstruct vessels that the conservationists accused of whaling illegally in a protected area.

Sea Shepherd is not in touch with Watson, Hartland said in her statement.

The group is known for taking direct action to intercept those it accuses of marine poaching, including "the use of acoustic weapons, water cannon and stink bombs," according to Agence France Presse.

Speaking to Reuters shortly after he was released on bail of €250,000 ($319,200), Watson dismissed the charges against him as an "inconvenience," and said his ships would soon "stop the illegal activities of whale-hunting fleets once again."

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