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Galapagos Iguana Case: Defendant Should Not Be Granted Bail

By Sea Shepherd Galapagos

Photo credit: Ecuadorian National PoliceForeign tourist and suspect in a wildlife smuggling case Dirk Bender of Germany, currently detained under penal prosecution, has requested bail. A hearing will take place sometime next week to analyze Bender´s petition.  Mr. Bender was already convicted eight months ago in a similar case in Fiji, where he tried to extract endangered Fijian iguanas.

Since July 8th, 2012, Sea Shepherd has been monitoring this case in an effort to contribute legal arguments on the importance of enforcing environmental laws. Sea Shepherd already appeared at the preliminary hearing to advocate for proper application of laws protecting the iguanas that are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. Now, we are preparing a legal brief, advocating for application of a recent legal reform, which allows judges to deny bail petitions on grounds of public interest.

According to the Ecuadorian Constitution, conservation of biological diversity is expressly regarded as a matter of public interest. In addition, the Constitution calls for a constitutional duty on the State to protect its natural heritage. These provisions are mandatory for the Judicial System.

Based upon these arguments, Sea Shepherd and other conservation groups will file a legal brief that includes a request for the judge to deny the defendant’s bail petition. To do so, the constitutional right of access to justice, as well as rights to nature, will be invoked.

For the case to succeed, the defendant must remain in the Galapagos Islands in order to respond to charges and to exercise his right to due process. The iguana case is a very important one, and it is an opportunity for the Judicial System to send a clear message to the world that attempts to extract endangered wildlife from Galapagos will not be tolerated. We, therefore, call for judges to carefully analyze the petition and to issue a decision that will honor the status of Galapagos as a World Natural Heritage site.

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