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Fugitive anti-whaling activist accuses former crew member of betraying him to Japan

Thomas Peter / Reuters

Paul Watson attends a rally of animal rights activists in Berlin, Germany, on May 23. The Sea Shepherd flag is behind him.

On the run and with three countries seeking his arrest, the captain of an anti-whaling group is claiming Germany was ready to sacrifice him to Japan and that a former crew member convicted by Japan had become a traitor by providing "false evidence."

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson said he was in "a safe place" after fleeing house arrest in Germany earlier this month when he learned that Japan was also seeking his extradition. Watson was being held on an earlier extradition request from Costa Rica.

With its own "Whale Wars" TV show on the Animal Planet network, Sea Shepherd is best known for its annual clashes with Japan's whaling fleet.

In 2010, Peter Bethune, the captain of one of its ships, was put on trial in Japan for boarding a Japanese whaling ship.

In his letter to supporters, Watson said Germany and Japan had conspired against him.

"The German government said I betrayed their trust by leaving Germany, yet they had already betrayed my trust," he stated. "The German politicians had made up their minds politically before the German court had made a decision, and during the time I was held in Germany, the Japanese negotiated with Germany to file for an extradition order to Japan on fabricated evidence provided by former Sea Shepherd Crewmember, Peter Bethune."

Watson then accused Bethune of cooperating "to provide false evidence to the Japanese Coast Guard to blame me for the boarding actions, despite the on-camera documentation that I specifically advised against the boarding by Bethune."

Miguel Llanos / NBC News

Peter Bethune captained the Sea Shepherd boat known as the Ady Gil.

Bethune countered in comments to NBC News that "to blame me for his (Watson's) predicament is farcical."

"I had Paul's express permission to run the mission and board the Shonan Maru," he added. "For him to say he was against it or he ordered me not to is false.  Japan has so much evidence against Paul -- various press releases, statements by Paul, footage."

"I have not seen any footage where he says don't go," Bethune said in response to the allegation of video showing Watson advising him not to board. "Paul asked my to skydive off the helicopter onto the Nisshin Maru (another Japanese ship) for goodness sake."

Bethune was convicted but given a suspended sentence, and has since returned to his native New Zealand and started his own environmental group, Earthrace Conservation.

Watson was detained in Germany in May on a Costa Rican warrant accusing him of endangering the crew of a Costa Rican fishing vessel in 2002.

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