One way top lawyers can tell if a witness is lying is by comparing what is being said now with what was said in the past.
Lies are a lot harder to remember than the facts.
So when Paul Watson, the environmental crusader, says that shark fishermen are trying to extort money from him, the record can weigh the man’s claim.
Watson, of course, is the leader of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who is on bail in Germany as Costa Rica seeks his extradition. He has been saying on YouTube videos that no one was hurt and no ship was damaged in an encounter that his “Ocean Warrior” vessel had in Guatemalan waters in 2002.
Costa Rican diplomatic and judicial officials are moving quickly to put Watson into their custody.
But what does the record show?
When the Poder Judicial here announced a surprise trial for Watson in 2006, a reporter contacted him in the United States. His response is in an email editors uncovered Wednesday in the A.M. Costa Rica files. It dates from Aug. 21, 2006.
Said Watson: “Well it appears that the charges would be dropped if I just pay the fishermen 100,000K. This is very strange because it sounds like a settlement in a civil case. If I had in fact committed a crime, I don’t see how the state can drop charges in return for a payment to an aggrieved party.”
Watson, of course, was unfamiliar with the Costa Rican judicial custom of criminals buying their way to freedom.
“I did not damage any property,” he continued. “I did not
threaten anyone’s life, nor did I even come close to hurting anyone. The entire affair was videotaped by a number of cameras. The fishermen’s charges have no evidence other than their verbal claim. I have many more witnesses than they do. The problem is that I can’t be guaranteed a fair trial. The very fact that they would jail me for up to a year before hearing the case is unacceptable.”
The Costa Rican judiciary has a long history of placing foreigners and citizens in preventative detention for long periods.
“I cannot see paying illegal shark finners to withdraw an accusation that has no evidence to back it up,” he said.
Watson also made this pledge: “If I am arrested, we are prepared to spend much more that $100K on a defense and an opportunity to expose this farce to the rest of the world. It will certainly be an opportunity to expose Costa Rica’s continued corrupt involvement with the illegal shark fin trade.”
Finally, he said: “It seems strange that after donating tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to the rangers of Cocos Island that this is the reward that I get from the Costa Rican government.”
In a video made last week, Watson said that his case had been reviewed by judicial officials twice in 2002 and the charges were dropped. His apparent frustration can be shared by a number of foreign investors here who have experienced prolonged and indecisive legal proceedings.
Perhaps coincidentally, the security ministry announced the arrest of three fishermen captured at sea this week with shark fins in their possession.
Cutting fins from sharks and dumping the crippled living creature back into the sea is a crime punishable by a fine.