LIMA (Reuters) - Peru is seeking the extradition of a Greenpeace activist from Argentina to face charges he damaged the country's iconic Nazca Lines during a widely criticized stunt last year, a court said on Thursday.
The Supreme Court's Permanent Criminal Chamber said Peru was on firm legal ground to ask Argentina to extradite Mauro Fernandez, a regional Greenpeace coordinator who illegally entered the Nazca Lines archaeological site to stage a photo in December.
The Nazca Lines are giant designs etched into a delicate stretch of Peru's southern desert some 1,500 years ago.
Greenpeace has repeatedly apologized for the stunt, which was meant to promote clean energy during global climate change talks in Lima, but backfired by angering Peruvians and supporters.
Activists had spelled "Time for change! The future is renewable" in large cloth letters near the iconic Nazca figure of a hummingbird.
The court said its decision to approve the extradition request was based on evidence, including video and testimony, that proved Fernandez disturbed the surface of the hummingbird.
Fernandez and Greenpeace were not immediately available for comment.
Greenpeace previously said activists did not touch the designs themselves, but acknowledged surrounding soils may have been disturbed unintentionally.
Peruvian authorities said activists caused "irreparable damage" by leaving a trail of footprints near the design, essentially creating a new line at the site.
Fernandez told a Peruvian television program last month he did not know the Nazca Lines, a UNESCO world heritage site, were so sensitive, and that he had been following instructions from Greenpeace headquarters in Germany.
Peru has an extradition treaty with Argentina.
It is unclear if Peru will seek the extradition of activists from Germany, Brazil and other countries who also took part in the stunt.
The government has said Greenpeace's executive director Kumi Naidoo refused to reveal the identities of other participants.
The Nazca Lines, best seen from the air, are striking reminders of Peru's rich pre-Hispanic past.
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.
No one knows why the forms were drawn so large and for so long.
(Reporting By Mitra Taj. Editing by Andre Grenon)