MADRID (TheBlaze/AP) — Spain's navy rammed into a Greenpeace dinghy during a Saturday protest in the Atlantic Ocean against oil exploration near the Canary Islands, injuring four of its activists, one of them seriously, the environmental organization said.
However, the navy disputed that account, noting it dispatched two boats from one of its ships in the area to prevent Greenpeace from boarding a large oil drilling ship; one of its activists was seriously injured when she fell out of her dinghy and was hit by its propellers, the navy added.
Speaking by radio-telephone from Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise in the area, Capt. Joel Stewart identified the woman as a 23-year-old Italian activist and said the other three other injuries were minor. The navy said it rushed the activist to a Spanish hospital in a helicopter.
Demonstrators clap as they wait for the arrival of the survey ship Rowan Reinaissance during a rally in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on November 14, 2014 during a protest against the beginning of oil prospecting by Spanish group REPSOL off the shores of Spain's Canary Islands. Greenpeace said activists on its Arctic Sunrise protest boat sailed to the zone where they expected Spanish oil group Repsol to launch its explorations this weekend, vowing to block the prospecting vessel. Local groups meanwhile called rallies on Friday right across the Atlantic archipelago, whose beaches are a popular draw for foreign tourists from Britain, France and elsewhere. (Image source: AFP/Desiree Martin)
In Madrid, lawmaker Diego Lopez Garrido of Spain's main opposition Socialist party said he would call Defense Minister Pedro Morenes to parliament to explain the navy's actions.
Last month, at the Spanish government's request, the Constitutional Court blocked a proposal by the Canary Islands regional government to hold a referendum on oil exploration in waters off the popular tourist archipelago off northwestern Africa.
Some residents fear that oil spills could damage their islands, which are one of Europe's major tourism magnets and home to an important fishing industry.
The government licensed the Spanish energy company Repsol YPF S.A. to begin oil exploration there, and it is doing that now from a large oil drilling ship with a platform. The navy also dispatched a frigate to the area where the Repsol facility is due to operate.
Greenpeace geologist Julio Barea said Saturday that he believes its oil exploration could cause "grave" environmental damage around the islands.