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Greenpeace names four activists who damaged a Peruvian heritage site

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Approximately 20 other activists took part in the vandalism

Rodrigo Abd / AP

Greenpeace has handed over the names of four activists who damaged the Nazca lines, an ancient heritage site, to the Peruvian authorities, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. The damage occurred in early December, when Greenpeace activists placed a gigantic banner promoting renewable energy and their own organization. Greenpeace apologized for the stunt after the Peruvian authorities called them out for damaging the area around 1,500-year-old hummingbird carving back in December. But the organization has now decided to cooperate with the Peruvian government in what appears to be an effort to reverse the negative effects of the public relations fiasco.

"Lawyers representing Greenpeace are driving from Lima to Nazca now..."

"Lawyers representing Greenpeace are driving from Lima to Nazca now to deliver our report to the Peruvian prosecutor," Mike Townsley, the chief spokesperson for Greenpeace International, told Bloomberg Businessweek. "We have said from the start that this action was wrong, it was crass, it was insensitive, it shouldn’t have happened, and we would cooperate with Peruvian authorities to set things right."

Peru forbids anyone from walking on the Nazca Lines, including top officials and presidents (it has made a few exceptions in the past, however; those exceptions involved special footwear). As a result, people who wish to see the site's most famous carving — a 1,500-year-old hummingbird — must fly over it. "You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years," Luis Jaime Castillo, a Peruvian deputy culture minister told the BBC right after the incident.

The banner read more like an ad for Greenpeace than a call for change

The damage caused by the activists was met with international outrage and a ton of bad press. The Greenpeace banner, which read "Time for Change! The future is renewable. Greenpeace," was supposed to send a message to UN climate talk delegates, but it read more like an ad for Greenpeace itself than a call for change in environmental policies.

Greenpeace named Wolfgang Sadik, a veteran Greenpeace Germany campaigner, as the mastermind behind the assault on the Nazca Lines. The organization has also named Martin Kaiser, the person responsible for Greenpeace's actions at the UN climate talk in Lima, and Isis Wiedeman, Greenpeace's chief communications officer at the Lima summit. Both are linked to Greenpeace Germany. Mauro Fernandez, the final activist named in the report and a staffer for Greenpeace's Argentina branch, told Peruvian reporters on Sunday night that Sadik hadn't informed him that the Nazca site was sensitive, and that their planned actions were illegal.

"Things in Nazca were wrong," Fernandez said. "I want to express my apologies to the Peruvian people and my deep and sincere regret for having been the voice of this mistaken activity." About 20 other activists took part in vandalizing the site, but they have not yet been named.

"The decisions were taken by those responsible while they were in Peru."

The backlash following Greenpeace's actions appears to have spurred the organization's cooperation. Their willingness to turn over the names may also be related to fact that members of Greenpeace advised Sadik and his team against placing the banner at the site. "The decisions were taken by those responsible while they were in Peru," chief Greenpeace spokesperson Townsley said. "At that point, there was no recourse back to Greenpeace International in Amsterdam or Greenpeace Germany in Hamburg."

A video showing a Japanese television crew entering the Nazca site in March 2013 was released earlier this month. In response, the Peruvian government said it would press criminal charges against the archeologist, Mario Olaechea, who led the TV crew onto the site, reports The Wall Street Journal. The government also plans to press criminal charges against the Greenpeace activists who vandalized the site. If those legal actions fail, culture minister Diana Alvarez-Calderon said, the government will take its complaints to international courts.

Greenpeace has not yet said whether it would facilitate the extradition of the four activists to Peru.