Drop Charges On Our Activists Immediately*
*Suva**, Fiji** Islands, April 19, 2006*: Drop charges against our Ocean Defenders immediately - that's the word from Greenpeace Australia Pacific Oceans Team Leader Nilesh Goundar. Mr Goundar made the call in writing to two Indian Commissioners based in the Pacific following the arrest and charging of three activists from Greenpeace India at a protest on April 14, 2006.
The trio have been charged under the Wildlife Protection Act for possessing evidence of the ongoing turtle massacre at Orissa. In January 2006, Greenpeace set up the Turtle Witness Camp near the Devi river mouth, a region which used to be one of the three main nesting sites in Orissa. During this period, Greenpeace activists and volunteers have recorded well over two thousand turtle carcasses strewn over a stretch of coast just 70-80 kms long. This is just a fraction of the total deaths along the coast, as many of the older carcasses would have been buried under the sand or washed out to sea.
In response, Mr Goundar said the Law enforcement agencies acted with alacrity to arrest those protesting the death of the turtles, instead of taking up the issue and prosecuting the perpetrators of turtle genocide on the beaches of Orissa.
Mr Goundar has written to India's two Commissioners in the Pacific HE Shri Ajay Singh and HE H.V.S Manral asking them to communicate to the Government of India and the State Government of Orissa, the global community's outrage against the wrongful imprisonment and the prosecution of Greenpeace activists under the Wildlife Protection Act calling for the charges to be dropped immediately.
"It is unimaginable the Indian government should choose to prosecute those who speak up in defence of the endangered turtles. In the past several months, visitors to the Greenpeace Turtle Witness Camp at Orissa have witnessed both, the miracle of the arribada and the morbidity of the mass deaths in Orissa. The protest aimed to shake the government out of slumber and move them to action - not against Greenpeace Ocean Defenders, but against the many threats posed to the turtles, especially in this, the Year of the Turtle."
"Law enforcement agencies acted with alacrity to arrest those protesting the death of the turtles - we expect them to demonstrate similar vigour towards prosecuting those who have pushed the species to the brink of extinction."
In the Pacific turtles play an integral ecological role in the functioning of coastal marine habitats. They are much a part of the traditions of many Pacific island people featuring in legends and traditional uses. Fiji has a 5 year Moratorium (2004 2008) which bans the commercial harvest and sale of sea turtles whilst PNG is progressing towards a tri-national agreement on the conservation and management of the critically endangered leatherback turtle.
The Oceans campaigner said based in these two countries the two diplomats should understand the importance of turtles and why these activists are attempting to save turtles.
Mr Goundar told the two diplomats to relay the message urgently to their governments as under the act, the activists could be sentenced to serving between three to six years in jail.
Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.
*Notes to Editors*
1. Orissa is one of the world's last three mass nesting sites for the endangered Olive Ridley turtle. The Olive Ridley is protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, and listed in the IUCN's Red Data book and on List I of CITES.