The Arctic Sunrise in Prince William Sound.
"The decision to remove these verdicts from the province of the
jury isone that this court does not take lightly," said Miller, who
presidedover the jury trial.
If ever there was a trumped-up charge, this was it. The case
stemmedfrom a voyage the Arctic Sunrise made into Alaskan waters
in 2004to protest irresponsible forestry practices.
The Arctic Sunrise had, and still has, all of the international
environmental standards certificates required.
Stichting Marine Services (SMS) - the operator of the Arctic
Sunrise -made a clerical error in not getting state confirmation of
an oil spill contingency plan. Arepresentative of SMS admitted the
error, corrected it, and made itclear SMS were ready to accept the
consequences. However, apparently because theship's operator
didn't provide a juicy political target, theresponsible party was
never prosecuted in favour of a target the stateprosecutor liked
better: Greenpeace USA.
The fact that three defendants who didn't own or operate
theArctic Sunrise were forced to stand trial demonstrated just
how politically motivated the charges and the case were.
GreenpeaceUSA was working to save the Tongass forest against
powerful politicaland commercial interests. And for that, the
authorities wanted Greenpeace to bear thefull brunt of the law. Any
law. Even if the State had to stretch tomake it stick.
The decision was the equivalent of fining someone US$ 200,000
forforgetting to have their driver's license in their pocket, when
theperson they charged wasn't even driving or in fact required to
have adriver's license. Authoritieswho didn't want their poor
environmental record exposed becamehell-bent on punishing us for
highlighting environmental destruction.
It's become a chillingly familiar pattern. Last year, US
Attorney General Ashcroft
took Greenpeace to court under a century-old law governing "sailor
mongering" (prostitution)in an unprecedented legal harassment
of a public-interest organisationfor the peaceful actions of its
supporters. In that case, we wereexposing a shipment ofBrazilian
mahogany into Miami which was illegal under US law. Thedestroyers
of the Amazon went free, while the Bush Administration
putGreenpeace on trial.
And in the news currently are revelations that the FBI has
been using anti-terrorism funds and powers to spy on critics of the
Bush Administration like Greenpeace, the American Civil
Liberties Union, and a raft of other public-interest groups.
Reacting to the Alaskan judge's decision to throw out the
chargesagainst Greenpeace, assistant attorney general James Fayette
told theAnchorage Daily News:"I've been a prosecutor in Anchorage
for 12 years and I've never seenthis. ... I've never heard of it
It's called justice, Mr. Fayette.