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Anti-whaling activists call for criminal investigation into sinking of protest boat

Saturday, January 9th 2010 - 08:29 UTC
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The remains of the Ady Gil powerboat which sank in the Southern Ocean after having its bow sliced off by a Japanese whaler  (Photo EFE) The remains of the Ady Gil powerboat which sank in the Southern Ocean after having its bow sliced off by a Japanese whaler (Photo EFE)

Anti-whaling activists have asked the Dutch public prosecutor to launch a criminal investigation into a clash between protesters and Japanese whalers in Antarctic waters which led to the sinking of a protest boat.

The hard-line Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has its mother ship registered in the Netherlands, said the carbon-fibre Ady Gil powerboat sank in the Southern Ocean on Friday after its bow was sliced off on Wednesday by a Japanese harpoon vessel.

Each side has blamed the other for the incident in which one crewman aboard the protest boat was injured.

Liesbeth Zegveld, lawyer for the activist group, said it appeared the ship that struck the boat had been sent out with the specific purpose to prevent the protesters, including Dutchman Laurens de Groot, from reaching the whaling ships.

“We filed a complaint for criminal prosecution with our prosecutor, requesting the start of an investigation into what we consider to be a crime -- piracy, actually -- committing violence on the high seas,” Zegveld said.

“This particular ship that attacked the Ady Gil was at a close distance all the time since they left the Australian harbour” Zegveld added. “It was sent out and equipped for following and harassing the Ady Gil”.

Australia voiced official concern about safety in the Southern Ocean on Friday, and Canberra said it was keeping open the option of an international legal challenge to Japanese whaling if diplomacy failed to reach an outcome.

Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson said the Japanese whalers ignored all distress calls after the boat was crippled, with the six crew picked up by a second Sea Shepherd boat nearby.

Zegveld said the fact that the group's mother ship, the Steve Irwin, is Dutch-registered, combined with the presence of a Dutch citizen among the six crew on board the boat, provided a legal basis for pursuing a criminal case in the Netherlands

The Ady Gil’s six crew members were rescued after the collision by the crew of the Bob Barker, a former Norwegian whaler purchased and refitted with a 5 million USD donation to Sea Shepherd from television personality Bob Barker, host of TV’s “The Price Is Right” for 35 years.

The Ady Gil was purchased with a 1 million USD donation by Ady Gil of Woodland Hills, co-owner of American Hi Definition Inc., one of Hollywood’s leading providers of video production trucks, custom control rooms and camera systems to entertainment and corporate clients.

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