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May 20, 2004

Judge slings out "sailor mongering" case

The Justice Department's prosecution of Greenpeace, sparked by a protest against the importation of illegally harvested mahogany, was thrown out yesterday afternoon in Miami.

Federal Judge Adalberto Jordan accepted Greenpeace's contention that the U.S. government provided insufficient evidence to support its claim that Greenpeace had violated an 1872 law , originally enacted against "sailor-mongering."

The Justice Department brought the charge some 15 months after two Greenpeace activists boarded a ship three miles off the Miami coast in February, 2002. The activisits were attempting to hang a banner calling on President Bush to stop illegal logging. They were arrested and served one weekend in jail.

Then , on July 18,2003, charges were brought against Greenpeace.

A statement by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida said that "Greenpeace conspired with its members and employees to place Hillary Hosta and Scott Anderson on board the APL-JADE, a container ship which entered the Port of Miami on the afternoon of April 12, 2002. About three miles from the entrance to the Port of Miami, Hosta and Anderson climbed up the APL-JADE's pilot's ladder, from a boat registered to Greenpeace and operated by a Greenpeace employee, with the intent to drape Greenpeace banners on one of the ship's cargo containers. After reaching the APL-JADE's pilot house, Hosta and Anderson attempted to evade the ship's crew but were apprehended and detained until the ship moored and law enforcement arrived. Two other boats, one owned by Greenpeace and one chartered by Greenpeace, maneuvered near the APL-JADE while flying Greenpeace flags. When the Coast Guard responded, one of the boats attempted to evade law enforcement. Hosta, Anderson, and the individuals on the boats were arrested on April 12, 2002. They made their initial appearances before United States Magistrate Judge Ted. E. Bandstra on April 15, 2002, and during June 2002 Hosta, Anderson, and four other participants were convicted of boarding a vessel before its arrival in port, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2279.

That law was enacted in response to the problem of "sailor mongering."

Greenpeace says that the APL-Jade was carrying 70 tons of mahogany that had been cut in the Brazilian Amazon. It says the Justice Department brought no charges against the shipper, despite the fact that the importation violated both U.S. law and international treaties.

Greenpeace says it has been working closely with the Brazilian government to block the illegal harvesting of mahogany in the Amazon basin. A member of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, Hamilton Cassara, came to Miami to testify on Greenpeace's behalf. But Judge Jordan dismissed the case after U.S. attorneys finished their arguments, meaning Greenpeace did not have to present its defense.

The 1872 sailor-mongering law was enacted to keep houses of ill-repute from luring sailors off their ships with offers of harlots and strong drink. There is no record of its having been applied for over a century.


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