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
"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.
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