Greenpeace Statement on Revised Indictment in Miami

 

Media release - November 14, 2003
In a revealing move, the Justice Department has revised its indictment of Greenpeace, deleting the claim that Greenpeace was wrong about the illegal cargo. Today Greenpeace was rearraigned on the revised indictment at the federal courthouse in Miami. Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando issued the following statement regarding this revised indictment.

NOTE: In April 2002, two Greenpeace activists climbed onto a commercial ship off the coast of Florida and held a banner that read, "President Bush, Stop Illegal Logging." The ship was carrying mahogany wood illegally exported from Brazil's Amazon rainforest. While the individuals involved in the protest settled charges against them last year, the Justice Department filed criminal charges against Greenpeace itself in July 2003. The original indictment -- the first criminal prosecution of its kind in U.S. history -- included the claim that Greenpeace was wrong about the presence of contraband mahogany on the ship that was boarded.

In a revealing move, the Justice Department has now revised its indictment of Greenpeace, deleting the claim that Greenpeace was wrong about the illegal cargo. Today Greenpeace was rearraigned on the revised indictment at the federal courthouse in Miami. Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando issued the following statement regarding this revised indictment.

"The Justice Department today forced Greenpeace back into court to be arraigned a second time on the exact same charges. The sole reason: The government has now abandoned its claim that Greenpeace was wrong about the presence of contraband mahogany wood on the ship that Greenpeace activists boarded. We hope the government will soon admit that not just one sentence in its indictment but the entire prosecution is invalid.

"Across the country, leading organizations, legal scholars, and citizens are calling this prosecution -- the first time in U.S. history that the government has indicted an entire organization for the free speech activities of its supporters -- unprecedented, troubling, and vindictive.

"In a speech earlier this week, former Vice President Al Gore called the prosecution 'highly disturbing' and said it 'appears to be aimed at inhibiting Greenpeace's First Amendment activities.' The ACLU, People For the American Way, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups this week filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Greenpeace. The Miami Herald recently wrote, 'This indictment is a puzzlementÖThere seems no point to it beyond vindictiveness toward a group that riles the administration. Is this the best use of federal law-enforcement resources? Is it selective prosecution?ÖThe case should be closedÖ.'

"The original indictment stated that, on April 12, 2002, activists boarded the M/V APL Jade 'based upon [Greenpeace's] erroneous belief that the M/V APL Jade carried a shipment of Brazilian mahogany lumber.' Greenpeace subsequently demonstrated, through papers filed in court, that its 'belief' was anything but erroneous: on April 14, 2002, after leaving Miami, the Jade unloaded tons of Brazilian mahogany at Charleston. So the government has decided to abandon its false allegation.

"This is not a trivial issue. It goes to the heart of the case. Greenpeace activists boarded the Jade with a banner reading 'President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging.' Their purpose was to spur authorities to search the ship and seize the mahogany, whose importation violated U.S. law. Instead, the authorities arrested the Greenpeace activists and, amazingly, did nothing to halt the mahogany smuggling.

"The government's failure to stop smuggling even where the evidence was handed to it demonstrates the importance of Greenpeace's campaign to protect the Amazon. Just as Rosa Parks' failure to retreat to the back of the bus was a more effective protest against racism than a simple picket at the bus stop, the Greenpeace action off Miami -- and comparable Greenpeace protests around the world -- are needed to shine a spotlight on Amazon destruction. These actions helped influence nations to reach a November 2002 agreement to provide greater protection for mahogany. Instead of putting Greenpeace on trial, the U.S. government should work with us to combat continuing crimes against the environment and against human rights in the Amazon."