Foreign ministry defends judiciary in Watson case

The Costa Rican foreign ministry has come to the defense of the judiciary and said that Paul Watson took justice into his own hands when he confronted a Costa Rican fishing boat in Guatemalan waters in 2002.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto came out with the statement Friday and defended the country’s image and its commitment to preserve biodiversity. It also emphasized the  country is one of laws.

Watson is to be released from a German prison today on bail. He was detained at the request of Costa Rica, which seeks to extradite him to answer an allegation that he put a fishing boat in risk of sinking in 2002.

“No person, Costa Rican or foreigner can violate the legal framework that exists in our country to defend the causes that he considers just nor usurp the authority of the state,” said the foreign ministry after a litany defending Costa Rica’s environmental record.

The ministry said that the Costa Rican courts have the most absolute respect to the principles of due process and judicial independence and that they act with total independence of the executive branch. “Costa Rica is a country that offers sufficient guarantees of due process with no political meddling,” the ministry said. “The trial of Mr. Watson will not be an exception.”

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Watson’s organization, has said that the Costa Rica courts are being manipulated by what they called the shark finning mafia. The organization said he risked death if he were to be returned to Costa Rica.

That likely will be the theme when Watson meets the international press today at Preungesheim Prison in Frankfurt. Watson is expected to be released after eight days in jail.

The organization is calling for protests at German embassies around the world Wednesday. Some Costa Ricans protested Friday outside the foreign ministry.

President Laura Chinchilla is visiting Europe, and she is likely to be met with protests. The supporters of Watson want the German justice ministry to decline to extradite the conservationist and they would like Ms. Chinchilla to issue a pardon.

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