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Oceans die, civilizations die. Defend sea, defend cultures. Jailed: Japanese Tokyo 2 & New Zealander Pete Bethune


By WcP.Story.Teller - Posted on 17 April 2010

Japan’s Junichi and Toru (‘Tokyo Two’); New Zealand’s Peter Bethune... defending the ocean from illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.Bottom L: “Tokyo Two” - Junichi Sato (left), Toru Suzuki (right), and their lead counsel, Yuichi Kaido (center) face reporters at a press briefing following their first pre-trial hearing at Aomori District Court in 2009. United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has already ruled that, in the defendants' attempts to expose a scandal in the public interest, their human rights have been breached by the Japanese government. Top R: New Zealander Peter Bethune boarded Japanese whaling ship Shonan Maru No 2 in the Antarctic Ocean to serve a citizen’s arrest for destruction of his ship (Earthrace aka Ady Gil). He has been held by the whalers since then and was arrested on March 12 when the whaling ship docked in Tokyo.

living statue of Lady Justice protests in the Netherlands for release of ‘Tokyo Two’
A "living statue" of Lady Justice protests in front of the Japanese embassy in The Hague, Netherlands. Two Greenpeace members Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki are currently on bail and awaiting trial in Japan for their role in discovering that prime cuts of whale meat were being smuggled from the whaling ship Nisshin Maru to crew members for their personal gain, one box alone being valued at US $3,000.

’Japan should put whaling on trial’, not those trying to draw attention to it
People in 15 countries demand to “put whaling on trial”, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th.

Embedded video (above) & articles by NZ Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes (attached below) question legitimacy of Japanese prosecution: on bail or in jail, Japanese and New Zealander, who committed no crime but acted to defend the ocean based on the same beliefs, values and principles regardless of different cultural backgrounds: “no commercial whaling, no killing of ocean’s giants” which is also the very wish of millions and millions of people from all over the world, of different ethnicities. Two courageous Japanese young men, Toru Suzuki and Junichi Sato who exposed illegal whaling industry, were subsequently arrested in Tokyo, and so was New Zealander Captain Peter Bethune who served a citizen's arrest to Captain of Shonan Maru 2 for destroying Ady Gil (Earthrace) in Australian Antarctic Territory EEZ waters. The Japanese fleet of whaling ships return home this year with 507 whales, short of their 935 target. The whaling fleet's leader, Shigetoshi Nishiwaki, said he was "furious" with Sea Shepherd for preventing it from reaching its quota during the five-month season. In other words, thanks to ocean defenders’ efforts at the risk of their own lives, 428 whales escaped from slaughter, from the meat market, and are somewhere happily swimming and breaching and nurturing their young. However, men of action to defend the oceans are imprisoned in jail cells.

(quote)

While the scandal of stolen whale meat is the most shocking, it's not the only revelation to come from this investigation. Further allegations from our informants that require investigation include:
* Throwing tonnes of whale meat overboard daily because they did not have processing capacity for the increased quotas
* Cancerous tumours being found and cut out of whales and the remaining meat processed for public sale
* Targeted hunts to ensure maximum catch, not random "sampling" as required by the research permits
* Harsh working conditions because of the increased workload from the increased quotas

The international battle over whaling has moved from places we're used to -- that is, at sea, in the Antarctic -- all the way to Tokyo. Two brave Japanese young men say they uncovered evidence of whale meat being sold illegally by "research" crews. Two brave Japanese young men were arrested.

It also is a rare occurrence of Japanese taking the lead in protesting their government's environmental policies. In a culture where demonstrations are rare and a premium is put on polite public discourse, Sato and Suzuki's actions have raised eyebrows. "Usually it's Australians, Americans or British taking action, not the Japanese themselves," said Keiko Hirata, a political scientist at Cal State Northridge who specializes in Japanese foreign policy. Along with putting Japan's whaling practices on trial, experts say, the case calls into question the tactics of groups such as Greenpeace, which are often viewed here as meddling outsiders.

In early 2010, two Greenpeace members will go on trial in Japan in an unprecedented court case - one that court papers will register simply as a case of theft and trespass but which, over the course of the past two years, has become so much more. Corrupt government practices, Japan’s adherence to international law, freedom of speech and the right of individual protest and the commercial killing of thousands of whales are all under the spotlight.

Japan’s treatment of the ‘Tokyo Two’ is a catalogue of failures -which have been specifically and formally condemned by the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - to adhere to international law and agreements to which it has given its name and endorsement, as well as its own domestic laws.

Police tip-offs to media prior to the arrest, detention without charge for 23 days, questioning without a lawyer present and while being tied to a chair, censorship of basic information requested through Freedom of Information requests and a blanket refusal to disclose documents that would aid their defence are just some of the notable failings.

Cast as a straightforward criminal trial, the case nevertheless bears all the hallmarks of a political prosecution. It will be heard in the northern town of Aomori, but the lead judge has been brought in especially from Tokyo. It will put on trial not only whaling but also wider government policies, raising fundamental questions about their legitimacy.

It is not common knowledge inside Japan that the government spent a billion yen of taxpayers’ money on whaling in the previous year, nor that most whale meat is stockpiled in freezers because the appetite for it is so low. The cash-flow between the government, the Institute for Cetacean Research -which sponsors the ‘science’ - and Kyodo Senpaku -which runs the ships - is very murky; attempts to clarify how money is spent and by whom are met with blacked-out documents and denial. The ancient system of ‘Amakudari’ – dropping bureaucrats by ‘golden parachute’ in to well-paid retirement jobs in government agencies - is also intentionally lacking in transparency. And yet, all of these factors ensure that subsidisation of a programme that is not needed, not wanted and not scientifically robust continues.

It is all these scandals that Greenpeace aims to expose in this trial, as well as the original allegations. Sato and Suzuki know that they risk up to 10 years in jail; they also know that to say or do nothing risks much more. (Date published: 08 February 2010 Download Document is available.)

The scandal - In 2008, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki exposed a scandal involving government corruption entrenched within the tax-payer funded whaling industry. Their findings included the embezzlement of whale meat. The Tokyo District Prosecutor began an investigation but then shut it down the same day that Junichi and Toru were arrested.

The two were held for 26 days, 23 of them without charge - often tied to chairs while they were interrogated, without a lawyer present. They face up to ten years in jail for doing what any honorable citizen should do – expose corruption. But it is not just Junichi and Toru's liberty that is at stake here – it is the fundamental right to peacefully investigate and expose corruption, to challenge authority and to do so without fear of persecution.

Since their initial arrest in June 2008, more than a quarter of a million people have signed a petition to demand justice for the Tokyo Two, and legal experts including Supreme Court advocates worldwide have expressed concern about the prosecution. International human rights and advocacy groups such as Amnesty International have questioned the legitimacy of the prosecution.

Having exposed this scandal, two of our members now facing up to 10 years in prison in Japan.

Nothing to hide? Greenpeace Japan exposed the scandal at a press conference, and delivered the box of whale meat to the Tokyo District Prosecutor, as evidence of widespread corruption in Japan's publicly funded whaling programme.

Before the scandal was exposed, an official of the Japanese Fisheries Agency claimed that whale meat was never given to crew. But after Greenpeace revealed the scandal the embezzlement, responses from those involved with the Japanese Government’s whaling programme were many and varied. Kyodo Senpaku changed their story three times in almost as many days. The company now claims that each crew member receives 9.5kg of whale meat.

An investigation was initiated by the Tokyo District Prosecutor but was suddenly dropped on the same day that the Greenpeace office in Tokyo and the homes of four staff members were searched by some 40 police officers, in full glare of the media, who had been tipped off. Junichi and Toru were arrested and held for 26 days. During this period, they were questioned daily for up to ten hours, strapped to a chair, without access to counsel – common practices in Japan, which have drawn repeated criticism from the UN Human Rights Committee. Eventually, Junichi and Toru were charged with theft of the "cardboard" and trespass. They were released subject to strict bail restrictions and face up to ten years in prison.

Breach of human rights - In December, 2009 the UNHRC’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention informed the Japanese government in December that their treatment of Junichi and Toru breached no fewer than five articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The working group also recognised the following facts.

* Sato and Suzuki acted considering that their actions were in the greater public interest as they sought to expose criminal embezzlement within the taxpayer-funded whaling industry.
* Junichi and Toru willingly cooperated with the police and the Public Prosecutor but that this cooperation was not acknowledged.
* The Government did not submit any essential information, such as details of Junichi ans Toru's activities as environmental champions, the investigation they carried out, the evidence they gathered or the help they gave to authorities to formally investigate their allegations.

The Working Group concluded: “The right of these two environmental activists not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty; their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to exercise legitimate activities, as well as their right to engage in peaceful activities without intimidation or harassment has not been respected by the Justice system.” As such, the Working Group found that the government has contravened articles 18,19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also took the view that Sato and Suzuki had been denied the right to challenge their detention before an independent and impartial tribunal in fair proceedings, and requested that the remainder of the trial be conducted fairly.

Guardian.co.UK: Whale wars in Japan: Being charged with theft and trespassing while investigating alleged embezzlement by the whaling fleet, bravest Japanese young men, Toru Suzuki and Junichi Sato, could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. A ruling is expected in June. Whale wars in Australian Antarctic Territory EEZ:after the sinking of Sea Shepherd's high-tech powerboat, Ady Gil (also known as Earthrace) by the Shonan Maru 2 harpoon boat, the speedboat's skipper, Peter Bethune, later boarded the Shonan Maru 2 to carry out a citizen's arrest of the captain and hand over a £2m bill for the destruction of the Ady Gil. The 45-year-old New Zealander could face a lengthy prison term after being indicted by Japanese authorities on five charges, including trespassing and assault. The whalers used water canon and a sonic crowd control device to deter Sea Shepherd, whose crew responded by hurling rancid-butter bombs.

Fleet of whaling ships returns home with 507 whales, short of 935 target. The whaling fleet's leader, Shigetoshi Nishiwaki, said he was "furious" with Sea Shepherd for preventing it from reaching its quota during the five-month season.

New Zealand Green Party MP Gareth Hughes: Australian based lawyer working in this field, Ronald Browne, has advised that New Zealand is a signatory to the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation. This Convention was incorporated into New Zealand law through the Maritime Crimes Act 1999. Section 8 (1) of the Act specifies extra-territorial jurisdiction - that New Zealand law applies to acts committed against a ship in the high seas if that ship is registered in New Zealand. Consequently, the captain of the Shonan Maru could be charged under New Zealand law for a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

The Government could explore the legal opportunity in the Maritime Crimes Act 1999, to release New Zealander Pete Bethune, the Green Party said.

“Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully has conceded jurisdiction in this case to Japan, but Japan’s claim is arguably invalid. All the talk of the Government not being able to interfere with the Japanese legal system is a farce. The New Zealand legal system could be dealing with this issue,” Green Party Oceans Spokesperson Gareth Hughes said.

New Zealand citizen Pete Bethune of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society boarded the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru No 2 while in the high seas to make a citizen’s arrest of the captain. The captain of the Shonan Maru No 2 allegedly rammed and destroyed the Ady Gil – a New Zealand registered vessel captained by a New Zealand citizen.

Australian based lawyer working in this field, Ronald Browne, has advised that New Zealand is a signatory to the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation.

This Convention was incorporated into New Zealand law through the Maritime Crimes Act 1999. Section 8 (1) of the Act specifies extra-territorial jurisdiction - that New Zealand law applies to acts committed against a ship in the high seas if that ship is registered in New Zealand.

Consequently, the captain of the Shonan Maru could be charged under New Zealand law for a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

“I am surprised that the Government has so readily conceded jurisdiction, rather than exploring this legal opportunity,” Mr Hughes said.

Mr Hughes said the crime was reported to the NZ Police by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and the Police referred the case to the Maritime New Zealand. That was almost two months ago and there has been no word from NZ authorities.

“Mr Bethune did what our Government should have been doing which is standing up to illegal whaling. New Zealand needs to stand up for Mr Bethune and stand up for the whales,” Mr Hughes said.

“Our Government’s silence is disturbing. That it was silent on the ramming of the Ady Gil, and that it is silent on the plight of Pete Bethune illustrates a pervasive soft touch towards Japan’s whaling industry. The Government is selling New Zealander’s principles to the pro-whaling Japanese Government.

“John Key’s Government must assert a claim of New Zealand jurisdiction in this case and bring Pete home. If John Key maintains a weak stance towards Tokyo, the only remaining option will be to take Mr Bethune’s case to the International Court of Justice,” Mr Hughes said.

Kathleen Alexander’s letter to New Zealand PM John Key: Captain Bethune made New Zealand proud when he and Earthrace broke the world record. He has represented his country well as a citizen, husband, father, activist and world record holder, yet his country has now seemingly abandoned him for fear of losing some monetary blood money through trade agreements with Japan. Although holding Japan responsible for criminal activity should be an issue of human decency, it is at the core a legal issue and the laws that Japan break are not ambiguous under New Zealand law. It is time to take a stand against these crimes Japan commits year after year. If you will not take a stand based on basic human decency for a citizen of your country, then you must at least take a stand based on your LAW! Bring your citizen, Captain Pete Bethune, home and hold Japan responsible for the crimes of sinking the Ady Gil and attempted murder, which Captain Bethune alleged in his citizen's arrest warrant.

Dear Hon John Key,

The legal and conservation issues between the world and Japan have been escalating over the past years with no diplomatic solution in sight; in fact, Japan recently admitted to poaching whales in the Southern Ocean for food. It is quite apparent to me and to the world that for Japan the term "diplomacy" is synonymous with "stalling," and I find it difficult to understand how your government continues to give credence to Japan's tactics.

Due to government inaction after the ramming of the Ady Gil and the attempted murder of six crew, Captain Pete Bethune was compelled to take action to address these serious crimes. He is now captive aboard the ship that sank his vessel and attempted to murder his crew, and New Zealand has still given no definitive outcry against the Japanese government for any of its crimes.

Captain Bethune made New Zealand proud when he and Earthrace broke the world record. He has represented his country well as a citizen, husband, father, activist and world record holder, yet his country has now seemingly abandoned him for fear of losing some monetary blood money through trade agreements with Japan. Although holding Japan responsible for criminal activity should be an issue of human decency, it is at the core a legal issue and the laws that Japan break are not ambiguous under New Zealand law.

It is time to take a stand against these crimes Japan commits year after year. If you will not take a stand based on basic human decency for a citizen of your country, then you must at least take a stand based on your LAW! Bring your citizen, Captain Pete Bethune, home and hold Japan responsible for the crimes of sinking the Ady Gil and attempted murder, which Captain Bethune alleged in his citizen's arrest warrant.

Kind regards,
Kathleen Alexander

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson: There is no question that Captain Peter Bethune selflessly serves the cause of protecting endangered and protected species of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Japanese government believes that by making an example of Captain Peter Bethune that they will deter Sea Shepherd from obstructing Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean next season.

Captain Peter Bethune is a prisoner of war. He is also the only true samurai presently residing in Japan.

Why is he a prisoner of war?

Because his ship was deliberately rammed, cut in half, and sunk by the Japanese harpoon vessel Shonan Maru 2. The very fact that the captain of the Japanese ship has not been questioned for the destruction of the Sea Shepherd vessel denies any civilian description of the Shonan Maru 2. A civilian vessel would have been investigated and the captain questioned and charged for a felony offense. Even if the collision were an accident, the captain would have been questioned. That is the nature of civilian maritime operations. Collisions at sea are investigated and the officers in charge are questioned. Only military officers are immune to questioning by civilian authorities and that is the case with this incident.

There is no case in recent maritime history of a civilian ship engaged in a catastrophic collision with another ship where the incident was not the subject of an official inquiry. In this case, the inquiry should have been ordered by Japan because the Shonan Maru 2 is a Japanese registered ship. The Australian authorities should have investigated the incident because the incident took place in the waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory. New Zealand has been investigating for months, but Japan is stalling and not cooperating so New Zealand authorities are no longer able to move forward. In fact, only New Zealand Maritime Authorities have attempted to question the captain of the Japanese ship that caused the destruction of the New Zealand registered vessel under the command of Pete Bethune—a New Zealand captain with a New Zealand, Australian, and Dutch crew.

To say that this entire situation is irregular and unorthodox is an understatement. In fact it reeks of corruption and abuse of power.

In response to the cowardly refusal of the New Zealand government to back the rights of a New Zealand citizen and vessel, Captain Bethune boarded the Shonan Maru 2 to confront its captain. It was a courageous act! He boarded a ship moving through frigid Antarctic waters at fifteen knots in the dark of night. He jumped from a jet ski to the harpoon vessel, slipped and fell into the sea, was picked up and attempted the boarding a second time, past sharp anti-boarding spikes and netting. He remained on the ship for nearly two hours until sunrise when he calmly knocked on the door of the wheelhouse and presented himself to the captain who sank his ship.

This man is a New Zealand hero defending the whales and the position of the people of New Zealand and Australia. And yet his government turns their back on one of their own to kow-tow to the imperial demands of Japan.

Captain Bethune was not brought back to Japan as a criminal. He was brought back as a prisoner on the ship that had so viciously attacked him and when that ship arrived it was greeted with a nationalist rally of cheering and jeering Japanese right-wingers in the same manner as they cheered the marching of POW’s down the Kokoda Trail or through the streets of Tokyo in 1942.

This was the first time since the Pacific War with Japan that an ANZAC soldier (Pete is a veteran) was transported back to Japan from the Southern Ocean after the sinking of his ship, and the first time that a prisoner was greeted with such jingoistic hatred. They treated him as a prisoner of war and that is exactly what he is.

Captain Bethune has been charged with trespass for politely knocking on the door of the wheelhouse of the Shonan Maru 2 to speak with its captain. He has been charged with assaulting whalers despite the fact that the incident in question was filmed by professional cameras and clearly shows the whalers firing pepper spray into the wind and back into their own faces. He has been charged with obstructing business despite the fact that the business he was obstructing is illegal under international conservation law and despite the fact that the whaling is supposed to be for research and not a business. He is being charged with damage to property for cutting a hole in a net to board the ship that destroyed our vessel valued at $3 million USD.

And strangely he has been charged under an obscure law called the Sword Control Law, the very same law that Emperor Meiji introduced in 1865 to confiscate the swords from the samurai. Apparently the knife that Captain Bethune used to cut the net to board the ship was of sufficient length to be categorized as a sword.

So in charging Captain Bethune under the same law that Emperor Meiji used to destroy the samurai tradition, Japan is treating Pete as a samurai warrior.

And when you think of what the word samurai means than Pete Bethune qualifies indeed for the word samurai means “to serve.”

And there is no question that Captain Peter Bethune selflessly serves the cause of protecting endangered and protected species of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

The Japanese government believes that by making an example of Captain Peter Bethune that they will deter Sea Shepherd from obstructing Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean next season.

This will not happen of course. Every Sea Shepherd crewmember signs onto the crew after they answer in the affirmative to the question of weather they are willing to risk their lives to save a whale.

If a crewmember is willing to give their life for a whale, then the threat of being held as a prisoner in Japan is rather trivial in comparison.

Captain Peter Bethune was well aware of the possible consequences of boarding the Shonan Maru 2 but he chose to do what he thought was right, and like any prisoner of war he will not betray his cause in the face of threats of incarceration and intense interrogation.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will help provide Captain Bethune with the best legal defense possible, and we will stand by Pete’s family while he is a prisoner. What we will not do is retreat or surrender to the outlaw whalers.

We are presently rallying our resources, raising funds, and preparing to return to the Southern Ocean next December. I already have a dozen volunteers willing to board Japanese whaling ships next season, willing to be taken prisoner, and willing to sacrifice their freedom and risk their lives for the whales.

Anything they do to Captain Peter Bethune will only serve to inspire those who love our planet, our oceans and the whales.

What the Japanese whalers, politicians, and media do not understand, what the cowardly politicians do not comprehend, is that my crew is armed with the most powerful weapon on the planet – passion!

NZ Green Party MP Gareth Hughes: McCully, it’s time to bring home Bethune

While life goes on as normal in Parliament it seems the Government has forgotten we have a Kiwi sitting, right now, in a Japanese jail.

I asked the Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, on Tuesday what he was doing to help New Zealander Peter Bethune. Mr Bethune did what our Government hasn’t done, which is to stand up to illegal Japanese whaling. He was detained by a Japanese whaling vessel as he tried to deliver a citizen’s arrest to the Captain who had allegedly rammed his boat, the Ady Gil.

In response to my question the Minister conceded jurisdiction in this case to Japan, essentially saying “not much”. I don’t think this is good enough. The New Zealand legal system could be dealing with this issue.

I’m urging Mr McCully to explore the legal opportunity in the Maritime Crimes Act 1999, to bring our man home. You can read the background and legal opinion here.

I think the Government should have looked down this avenue earlier, however I’m not surprised. The Government has been very quiet on the plight of Peter Bethune, and has switched to a very weak stance towards Japan on their whaling. The Government is supporting a position at the International Whaling Commission which would see Japanese whale hunting legalised. Ostensibly it’s an attempt to reduce the numbers killed – but I think Kiwi’s understand you can’t save whales by killing them.

Let’s do more than providing consular support and having the occasional chat with Japan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Katsuya Okada about Bethune. Let’s try harder to join with the Aussies who are already campaigning hard to bring home Bethune and return to our prior long standing anti-whaling stance.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy GreenPeace and chirayliq.blogspot.com

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  • "Love the images on this blog..there are some interesting articles about health I noticed...we tend to run a 50/50 risk of a heart attack...I noticed when in the USA recently everyone seemed huge..they ate massive meals...I reckon that is one cause of heart failure...just my opinion..but yeah these articles can be worrying to some folk so just heed the advice...I know I will." - Mick (The Sunshine Coast, Australia; Aug 29, 2009)
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  • "Very informative site by prose and picture..." - Jeff (Michigan, USA)

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