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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Los Angeles (AFP) – Fugitive eco-activist Paul Watson is due in a U.S. court this week for his latest legal battle — but, after 15 months on the run, he says he is happy to leave the high seas clashes to friends in Australia.

The Canadian-born Sea Shepherd founder arrived in California last week more than a year after fleeing arrest in Germany, spending most of the intervening time at sea in the South Pacific and Southern Ocean.

In an interview with AFP the 62-year-old said he expects to take the stand in a Seattle courtroom on Wednesday, to defend himself against accusations of piracy brought by Japanese whalers.

But the white-bearded activist says he does not expect a judge to lift an injunction on him joining Sea Shepherd boats due to leave Australia within weeks for an annual campaign against Japanese whaling vessels.

“I don’t believe that the injunction will be lifted, so I don’t plan on going on the campaign,” said Watson, who is banned from participating along with the Oregon-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS).

“But I’m not particularly concerned about it because Sea Shepherd Australia is quite capable, as they’ve proven … to carry out the campaign,” he added.

The Australian arm of the environmental group is ready to set sail again on December 1 to disrupt the Japanese whalers, said Watson, known to his loyal supporters as “The Captain.”

Sea Shepherd, founded by former Greenpeace activist Watson in 1977, has chased the Japanese fleet hunting whales off Antarctica for several years in a bid to stop the animals being slaughtered.

Japan says it conducts vital scientific research using a loophole in an international ban on whaling, but makes no secret of the fact that the mammals ultimately end up as food.

Watson was arrested in May last year in Frankfurt on a warrant from Costa Rica, where he is wanted on charges stemming from a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.

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