Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson
Costa Rica is a beautiful nation with incredible bio-diversity and friendly people, but for many years this country has been plagued with political corruption from leaders whose agendas do not represent the people – and certainly not the environment.
Unsolved murders of conservationists, turtle egg poaching, illegal shark finning, the convenient loss of evidence in the trial of Jairo Mora Sandoval that resulted in his killers walking free.
Costa Rica has great public relations that feeds the myth of an ecologically conscious nation but it remains a country where narco-poachers operate with impunity and where many environmentalists have been murdered without their killers found, or if found, released on some technicality like the convenient loss of evidence.
They have said I should come to Costa Rica to defend myself in their courts, but there has been a $25,000 reward on my head since 2002 put in place by the poachers – and the best way for that reward to be collected is if I am in a Costa Rican jail. And what chance would I have in a court that loses evidence in a murder trial and proceeds to trial in my case with an accusation that contradicts itself regarding the geographical position of the “crime.”
Since 2012 I have been trying to speak with the Costa Rica government about the bogus charge they brought against me in response to my stopping an illegal Costa Rican shark-finning operation in the waters of Guatemala at the request of the Guatemalan government.
The charge against me accuses me of stopping the shark-finners in international waters but the position given in the accusation is well inside of Guatemalan waters.
And yet despite the contradiction in the charge itself, they refuse to drop the charge. They issued a Red List extradition request against me with Interpol. The Red List is for serial killers and war criminals. What I did was to stop a crime, and not a single person was hurt nor was property damaged. But for stopping an illegal shark-finning operation, Costa Rica wants to put me in prison from five to 15 years.
This month I said enough is enough. If the government and the courts will not talk with me, perhaps I should go straight to the people of Costa Rica with the truth.
Sea Shepherd has posted billboards in Costa Rica stating the importance of protecting marine wildlife. Last month journalists from Channel 7 in San Jose came to Paris to interview me. That interview has aired in different segments for the last three days this week and will continue tonight.
This reportage not only includes an interview with me but also with the captain of the fishing boat we caught finning sharks in 2002, as well as legal experts, lawyers, members of the government and the judiciary.
As a result, people in Costa Rica are getting a complete background of the case and the issues involved.
My attorney in Costa Rica, Abraham Stern will be taking my case to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights.
The question must be asked: If no one was injured; if no damages to property occurred; if the evidence in the accusation states the incident took place in Guatemalan waters; if we were acting on behalf of the government of Guatemala; if Sea Shepherd documented the entire incident on video, then why is Costa Rica investing so much money, time and effort to extradite me back to Costa Rica on such a minor charge?
My suspicion is that they want to bring me back to Costa Rica where the charges will be dismissed and they will then extradite me onward to Japan. There is significant evidence to suggest that Costa Rica revived their 2002 case against me in 2012 at the request of Japan – in other words, a political favor for a nation (Japan) that invests heavily in Costa Rica.
In 2002, the charges against me were dismissed and I was given clearance to leave Costa Rica. I never heard another thing about it until the Germans detained me in Frankfurt a decade later, in May 2012.
The film crew that covered this incident was an independent film crew led by Rob Stewart. His footage was used in the award-winning documentary “Sharkwater.”
The fishing captain of the Varadero I states that he was not in Guatemalan waters; the evidence proves otherwise. He claims he was not finning sharks, and yet, he was filmed finning sharks. He says he was not a poacher; yet he and his boat had been previously arrested and convicted of poaching within the Galapagos Marine Reserve in 2001.
Sea Shepherd is needed to address issues diminishing sharks and sea turtles in Costa Rica but the Costa Rican government has refused their assistance to protect the turtle beaches and to protect the fragile waters around Cocos Island. Sea Shepherd is tired of being refused as the poachers carry on with their crimes unopposed. Beginning June 1st, Sea Shepherd will have volunteers on Pacuare and Moin beaches protecting turtle eggs and nests, and will not let Jairo’s murder deter protection of the nests. Moin Beach is the place where Jairo was murdered two years ago.
Sea Shepherd has decided to go ahead with efforts to defend the lives of turtles, announcing this week the launch of Operation Jairo.
Sea Shepherd’s vessel, the Jairo Mora Sandoval is currently defending turtles and turtle nests in Cape Verde, carrying on Jairo’s legacy.
Sea Shepherd will continue its efforts to supply a patrol boat to the rangers of Cocos Island in order to assist in the protection of the Cocos Island Marine Reserve from poachers.
With the airing my interview with Channel 7 in Costa Rica over the last three days, the truth about my case is finally reaching the Costa Rican public.
I may not be able to go to Costa Rica myself, but Sea Shepherd will return to the beaches of Costa Rica and to the Cocos Island Marine Reserve.
Sea Shepherd will not let the Costa Rican government forget the name “Jairo Mora Sandoval,” and will do all in its power to further Jairo’s incredible conservation efforts, the very courageous efforts that cost him his life at the young age of 26.
The links to the interview with Channel 7 below are in Spanish. English subtitles will be available in the near future.