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Fugitive eco-activist says granted Australian visa

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Fugitive eco-warrior Paul Watson says he has been granted an Australian visa, but explained that he cannot for the moment lead anti-whaling campaigning, due to legal action.

The 62-year-old Canadian, who arrived in the United States this week after 15 months on the run at sea, said he was confident that his Sea Shepherd organization's campaign was in good hands.

"Australia granted my visa this week and it is wonderful to realize that I am now welcome to return to Australia when I so choose to do so," he said in an update on his Facebook page, posted late Friday local time.

"I will however not be leading Operation Relentless nor will I be involved in the campaign," he said, adding that he was "prohibited" from campaigning by a US court injunction, even if he is fighting it.

But he added: "The campaign to the Southern Ocean is in skilled, experienced and capable hands and I am confident that it will be of extreme benefit to the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary."

Watson is wanted by Interpol after skipping bail in Germany in July last year, where he was arrested on Costa Rican charges relating to a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.

After more than a year at sea, reportedly much of it in the South Pacific, he announced on Thursday that he had arrived in California, and was heading to Seattle to defend himself in court next week.

The Japanese government responded by saying it "continues to request the captain's arrest."

Watson said he decided to disembark to testify in a court case due next week in Seattle over Sea Shepherd's actions in Antarctica against Japanese whalers.

Japanese authorities describe methods used by the marine conservation organisation against whaling ships -- for example blocking the boats' propellers -- as "terrorist."

Tokyo claims it conducts vital scientific research using a loophole in an international whaling ban agreed at the International Whaling Commission (IWC), but makes no secret that the mammals ultimately end up on dinner plates.

Japan defends whaling as a tradition and accuses Western critics of disrespecting its culture. Norway and Iceland are the only nations that hunt whales in open defiance of a 1986 IWC moratorium on commercial whaling.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131102/fugitive-eco-activist-says-granted-australian-visa