A federal judge dismissed the U.S. government’s nationally publicized criminal case against the international environmental group Greenpeace yesterday for lack of evidence, the Miami Herald says. U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan in Miami issued a rare directed verdict finding Greenpeace not guilty midway through the trial after federal lawyers tried to use a 19th century maritime law for the first time to prosecute an advocacy group’s protest methods.
Two years ago, Greenpeace members were accused of illegally boarding a ship to protest Amazon mahogany lumber that was part of its cargo. Greenpeace charged that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft used an archaic 1872 law meant to stop brothels from luring sailors to shore to combat Greenpeace’s criticism that the Bush administration has failed to enforce international restrictions on mahogany trade.
The boarding about six miles from the Port of Miami-Dade does not meet the law’s requirement of a ship “about to arrive,” the judge concluded.
“This is a victory for the American tradition of peaceful protest,” said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace. The U.S. Attorney’s office said it “remains undeterred in prosecuting those persons who illegally attempt to board ships at the Port of Miami or otherwise threaten port security.”