Canada says environmentalist Paul Watson can reapply for passport

Environmentalist and founder of Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson talks to media and friends after he was released from prison in Frankfurt, May 21, 2012. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach (Reuters)

By Mike De Souza OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Tuesday it will allow environmentalist Paul Watson to reapply for his passport, three years after the document was confiscated by German authorities. A spokesman for the Citizenship and Immigration Department denied Watson's allegation that the decision to withhold the passport was driven by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's dislike of environmentalists. Watson, who was born in Canada but held both Canadian and U.S. passports, is the high-profile founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose boats have been involved in confrontations on the high seas. Watson said German authorities had seized his Canadian and U.S. passports and detained him in a facility in Frankfurt in 2012 based on outstanding warrants from Japan and Costa Rica. The Germans later sent the passports to U.S. and Canadian missions in Germany. While the United States returned Watson's passport, he said the Canadians declined without providing an explanation. The government said it attempted to inform Watson in October 2012 why it revoked his passport in a letter sent to the Frankfurt facility where he was detained. But it was not immediately able to say whether it was aware of multiple media reports from several months earlier that he had been released on bail and had left the country to avoid extradition. The immigration spokesman said it revoked Watson's passport "in a professional and non-partisan manner" based on information it had in 2012, using provisions of Canadian passport rules for people facing charges. It also said it would review any new application from Watson to determine his eligibility for a new passport. Watson - whose organization is featured on the reality television show "Whale Wars" - said in a phone interview on Tuesday that he would soon reapply for a passport at the Canadian embassy in Paris, where he now lives. (Story refiles to fix typographical error in fifth paragraph to make it "able" instead of "unable) (Editing by Jonathan Oatis)