Judge won't throw out Greenpeace charges

Posted: Tuesday, March 01, 2005

KETCHIKAN - Ketchikan District Court Judge Kevin Miller has denied motions to dismiss state charges that Greenpeace and ship agent Willem Beekman violated oil spill prevention laws last year.

A trial is set for March 29.

Greenpeace denied responsibility, saying it never owned, operated or had crew members aboard the Arctic Sunrise.

State prosecutors replied that Greenpeace's motion amounted to "a corporate shell game designed to avoid the consequences of their actions."

Judge Miller said it would be for a jury to decide.

"The court finds that the State of Alaska has produced sufficient evidence such that the court cannot conclude as a matter of law that the State has improperly charged Greenpeace Inc.," Miller wrote in papers filed Thursday.

Greenpeace and Arctic Sunrise Capt. Arne Sorenson were each charged with two counts of operating in state waters without an oil discharge prevention and contingency plan. They also were charged with two counts of operating without proof of financial responsibility for oil spill damages.

In its motion to dismiss the charges, Greenpeace claimed it was not the party responsible for operating the motor yacht Arctic Sunrise or for filing its required paperwork.

Greenpeace attorney Sidney Billingslea claimed that the ship's owner, Stichting Phoenix, chartered the vessel to Stichting Marine Services.

"Greenpeace International painted the hull and funnel with Greenpeace colors and flew the house flag as permitted under the charter between Stichting Phoenix and Stichting Marine Services," Billingslea wrote. "Greenpeace Inc. had no ownership or operational involvement with the charter of the Arctic Sunrise."

Prosecutors said Greenpeace's attempts to distance itself from the crimes were disingenuous.

"The defendant acts in conjunction with all other entities named in the information under the generic name 'Greenpeace' whenever it suits their purpose, but disavows the relationships when liability and convenience dictates."

Beekmans attorney, Michael Moberly of Anchorage, filed a motion to dismiss charges based on "selective prosecution." He claimed that other ships have arrived in Alaska without proper oil pollution documents but that the state never charged them with crimes. The prosecution against Beekman and Greenpeace were politically motivated, according to the motion.

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