Having put up the bail for two anti-sealing protesters, Canadian author Farley Mowat vowed to help defend the men after what he called their "atrocious" arrests.
"I put up the bail and I will confirm now that I will use whatever resources I've got, monetary and otherwise, to defend them," the 86-year-old environmentalist told CBC News Monday afternoon.
He described the arrest of the skipper and first officer of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's vessel — the Farley Mowat — as a tactic by officials to keep them away from the Gulf of St. Lawrence until the end of the seal hunt. Posting bail for the two was the "right thing to do," Mowat said.
The author said it was "absolutely atrocious" that the Canadian government sent armed officers aboard this vessel "staffed entirely by innocent young people" and illegally arrested them in international waters.
The Farley Mowat was boarded on Saturday by RCMP officers, working with officials from the federal Fisheries Department and the coast guard who have been monitoring the hunt. Crew members allege police handled them roughly, but RCMP deny using force.
Bail paid in 'doubloons': Watson
In a stunt designed to make headlines, Paul Watson, the head of the anti-sealing group, posted part of the bail in toonies.
"I took out 5,000 $2 coins and that's what we're gonna pay the bail. They want cash, we'll give them cash. Doubloons. I think it's appropriate for their pirate action," Watson told CBC News earlier in Cape Breton.
The Canadian Press reported that half the bond was paid in 2,500 toonies. Watson told the news agency that the coins had to be counted twice, because Cape Breton court officials lost track and had to start over.
"I figure since they're going to board our vessel at gunpoint on the high seas and take all our property, they are pirates and we will give them a pirate ransom."
The captain Alex Cornelissen and first mate Peter Hammarstedt spent Sunday night in jail in Sydney while they waited for anti-seal-hunt campaigner Watson to arrive from New York to post their bail of $5,000 each. They were released Monday.
The two are accused of being in Canadian waters and interfering with the seal hunt after a confrontation with a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker two weeks ago. The charges could result in fines of up to $100,000 or up to one year in jail, or both.
Watson rejected the claim that the ship was in Canadian waters, and therefore ignored a request to report to a Canadian port.
He said the ship is a Dutch-registered vessel that was in international waters and doesn't have to answer to the Canadian government, only the Dutch government.
"Canada is in no position to give orders to a Dutch-registered vessel in international waters."
'Money-sucking manipulators': Hearn
Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, however, has said the arrests were made within Canadian waters. At a news conference after the raid, he said the officers had stopped "a bunch of money-sucking manipulators" from interfering with the hunt.
Hearn said the ship's crew failed to comply with warnings and continued to violate marine and fisheries regulations.
He elaborated during Monday's question period, telling the House, "Canada has laws in place to ensure the safety of our citizens. The Sea Shepard Conservation Society broke those laws and in so doing put the lives of our sailors at risk.
"Paul Watson can continue with his PR exercise to siphon more money from an unsuspecting public. In the meantime. Mr. Speaker, I'll stand up for our sealers and our laws."
The captain and first officer are expected to appear in court again on May 1, their lawyer Guy LaFosse said.
Six other people on board the Farley Mowat were detained and interviewed by immigration officials but released on Sunday.
Members of the crew said the police handled them roughly when they boarded the Farley Mowat.
Australian Merryn Redenback, 32, said one of his fellow crewmembers was injured.
"They [police] moved through our ship and forced everyone to the floor," Redenback said. "One of the crew members was assaulted. She received a minor head injury.… Everyone else was forced to the ground. I was forced to the ground in the bathroom, where I was just coming out of the bathroom."
RCMP deny that any force was used in the arrest. The Farley Mowat is now tied up in Sydney harbour where it is being searched by Department of Transportation inspectors and RCMP officers.