US FBI arrests peaceful protesters and freelance photographer

Press release - 13 April, 2002

Amazon river and rainforest, Brazil

Last night the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) arrested 14 Greenpeace protestors and a freelance photographer following a peaceful demonstration to expose an illegal mahogany shipment arriving to the Port of Miami. The 14 activists and the freelance photographer face multiple felonies and will be formally arraigned on Monday. All of the individuals including the freelance photographer will spend the weekend at the Federal Detention Centre of Miami.

Greenpeace activists escorted a shipment carrying illegal Brazilian mahogany in two inflatable boats with banners reading "Stop Illegal Logging." Another boat carried a freelance photographer who was there to document the peaceful protest. The mahogany was part of a shipment that came from Brazil on the APL Jade. The Miami Coast Guard detained the activists and the freelance journalist for a few hours, but just prior to their release the FBI placed all 15 under arrest.

Speaking from the US, Mike Roselle said "Greenpeace was shining a spotlight on an environmental crime in the peaceful manner we have used for 30 years." Roselle continued, "for a peaceful protest to be called a felony compromises the spirit of civil disobedience on which this country was founded."

The campaign to ban illegal mahogany intensified in October 2001, following a Greenpeace report entitled "Partners in Mahogany Crime," exposing illegalities in the mahogany trade. Based on Greenpeace´s investigation, the Brazilian government halted its mahogany trade. In spite of this moratorium, several powerful exporters took legal action and continued to traffic mahogany to countries including the United States.

Today´s news comes in the wake an announcement earlier this week by the Brazilian President calling for the continued support of Greenpeace and world governments to continue to help Brazil tackle the illegal timber trade in the Amazon(1) President Cardoso said:

"I shall continue to count on the backing of governments, prefects and civil society so that Brazil can learn to respect itself and so that the country gains the respect and support of other countries by preserving the noble species that are found in our forests, such as mahogany."

Earlier this week Greenpeace discovered seized mahogany in Miami earmarked for Aljoma, a timber company based in Florida. In addition, Greenpeace uncovered evidence that the US continues to receive illegal mahogany in several ports.(2) The US government has been holding Brazilian mahogany in a number of US ports for more than a month and has not indicated what they will do with the cargo.(3)

News of the arrests broke as delegates from across the world took a weekend break from political negotiations at the Ancient Forest Summit in the Hague in the Netherlands. Paulo Adario from Greenpeace Amazon said: "While my colleagues in the US are detained in a Miami jail, the mahogany mafia which controls the international trade in this timber go about their corrupt business as usual." Adario continued: "the only way of putting an end to these ancient forest crimes is if governments join forces with Greenpeace´s campaign to save what's left of the world´s remaining ancient forests."

Governments from around the world are gathered this week for the Ancient Forest Summit in the Hague, the Netherlands to discuss the fate of the ancient forests. The most important political meeting relating to forest conservation since the Rio Earth Summit 10 years ago, the Ancient Forest Summit offers a critical opportunity for world governments to commit to action that will protect ancient forests and agree concrete objectives and measures in order to do so.

Notes: 1) The radio speech was given on Tuesday morning, April 9, on a daily show broadcast on Radiobras, the national government-owned radio network. The program is called "Hora do Brasil" (The Brazil Hour), and the segment is named “Palavra do Presidente" (Words of the President) - reference number 320A. The full text can be found in Portuguese at IBAMA's web site: English translation available for download from Greenpeace 2) Baltimore, Charleston, Gulf Port, MS., Houston, Miami and Norfolk, VA 3) As reported in The Wall Street Journal on March 29, 2002, Greenpeace´s on-going investigation revealed that at least ten million dollars worth of shipments have arrived into US ports following Brazil´s moratorium on mahogany exports in October.