Endangered Forests, Endangered Freedom

Spanish Government Challenges democratic right to peaceful protest

Press release - 26 June, 2003
Greenpeace today called for the release of the organisation's flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, being detained by authorities in Valencia, Spain since 13 June after a non-violent, peaceful protest against the importation of illegal and destructive timber. The Spanish Government demanded Greenpeace to post a bond of Euro 300,000 in order for the ship to be freed.

Valencia (Spain) Greenpeace activists from the SV Rainbow Warrior boarded today the MV Honour, which is carrying timber from forest destruction in Cameroon. The Honour was forced to anchor outside Valencia harbour.

"This bond is unjust, abusive and absurd," said Uta Bellion, Co-ordinator of Greenpeace's forests campaign. "It appears that this is the Spanish Government's way of stopping the protests against the imports of timber that has been extracted from the world's last remaining ancient forests. Meanwhile, timber continues to enter harbours in Spain and around Europe with nothing to stop them."

On June 13th, Greenpeace activists chained themselves to the cargo ship Honour, which transported the contentious timber. Because of this protest the Captain of the Rainbow Warrior, Joel Stewart and four other activists have been ordered to pay a fine totaling Euro 630.

However, the Spanish authorities have opened a case against the Rainbow Warrior. "Not since the French response to Greenpeace's protests against the nuclear tests in Muroroa, has Greenpeace seen this kind of repression," said Joel Stewart. "The Spanish Government should be going after the real criminals who are destroying the world's forests and not challenging the democratic right of peaceful protest."

Greenpeace maintains that the new European Commission Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade does not adequately reflect the severity of the illegal logging issue and falls short on the very important point of implementing new legislation to ban the trade in illegally harvested timber. "Spain plays an important role in stopping the trade in illegally harvested timber and should focus its energy and resources on implementing proper legislations to protect the lungs of the planet and not in persecuting people with evidence and facts," concluded Bellion.

The destruction of the world's last ancient forests robs local peoples of the resources needed for their survival. Greenpeace is campaigning to protect the world's remaining ancient forests by promoting ecologically sustainable and social responsible forest use and the establishment of protected areas. Protected forest areas are dedicated to the conservation of their biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and are established and managed respecting traditional land rights-particularly those of indigenous peoples. They are protected from road building and industrial activities.

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