Greenpeace activists injured after navy blocks Canaries oil drilling protest

Young Italian woman suffers broken leg as military boat rams environmentalists’ craft

Two Greenpeace activists were injured when the Spanish navy tried to stop them from protesting against oil prospecting off the coast of the Canary Islands over the weekend.

The environmental group has criticized the military’s excessive use of force in the operation, which resulted in one of their members suffering a broken leg.

Video of Saturday’s incident released by Greenpeace.

The opposition Socialist Party has said it will call on Defense Minister Pedro Morenés to appear before Congress to explain the incident as a matter of urgency, while Industry Minister José Manuel Soria has wished the activist a speedy recovery.

“It was disproportionate,” said injured activist Matilda B. The 23-year-old Italian was admitted to hospital in Las Palmas with a broken leg and cuts after the incident. Another environmentalist suffered a blow to the ribs.

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“The defense of Spain’s vital and strategic interests is a fundamental National Security objective, and the freedom to exploit available energy resources must be considered within that context,” the Defense Ministry said.

Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise has been in the area where Spanish oil giant Repsol has been authorized to search for oil in waters off the coast of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote since last Tuesday. The Defense Ministry said the environmentalists’ ship obstructed the positioning of Repsol vessel Rowan Renaissance and that its activists tried to board it.

They were warned several times that they were invading the navigation exclusion zone”

The incident occurred just before 7am on Saturday morning when Greenpeace environmentalists approached the Repsol ship in several speedboats. “They were warned several times over the radio that they were invading the navigation exclusion zone and they were asked to move away,” said military sources.

The captain of the Greenpeace boat, Joel Stewart, responded: “We have received and understood your message. We are going to remain in position. We are obliged to, our duty is to protect the environment.”

A video of the incident recorded by Greenpeace shows at least two Spanish naval vessels charging the ecologists’ boats. Matilda B. fell into the water and was later rescued by the military and transferred to hospital by air force helicopter.

Greenpeace denied that she was injured by its boats’ propellers, as military sources had sustained, because they were equipped with inboard motors. Military sources said their propellers were also protected. After assessing the damage, Greenpeace decided to withdraw the vessel from the area and return to port in Arrecife, Lanzarote.

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