LIMA (Reuters) - Peru said on Monday that it may seek the extradition of members of environmental group Greenpeace for causing “irreparable” damage to the Nazca Lines - giant designs mysteriously etched into the sand and preserved for more than 1,500 years.
The activists left Peru after leaving behind a trail of footprints in a delicate stretch of desert near the iconic Nazca figure of a hummingbird, where they spelled “Time for change! The future is renewable” in large cloth letters, said Culture Minister Diana Alvarez-Calderon.
The message, on a protected UNESCO world heritage site, aimed to pressure negotiators at a United Nations climate change summit in Lima that ended on Sunday.
But the stunt backfired - angering not just Greenpeace’s usual detractors but also archaeologists, environmentalists and a broad cross-section of Peruvians.
The Nazca Lines are striking reminders of Peru’s rich pre-Hispanic past and inspired the Andean country’s logo.
Last week a Peruvian judge rejected prosecutors’ request to keep the activists in the country to face questioning, citing incomplete information.
But Alvarez-Calderon said authorities will keep trying to hold accountable the dozen activists involved in the action.
“The damage caused is irreparable,” Alvarez-Calderon said at a news conference. “We have to continue the process when a person is not in Peru - extradition if the judge decides so or civil reparation.”
Greenpeace apologised for the stunt last week and said it would take responsibility for the consequences of its actions.
Activists from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Germany, Italy and Austria took part.
“They created a line that wasn’t there before,” said Deputy Culture Minister Luis Jaime Castillo.
The ancient Nazcan culture created the lines by scraping away the desert’s dark iron-oxide pebbles to uncover white soil beneath, which hardened as limestone melded with morning dew.
No one knows for sure why the forms were draw, so large, and for so long - over a period of a thousand years - making them one of the world’s archaeological enigmas.
Reporting By Reuters TV, Writing by Mitra Taj; Editing by Christian Plumb