Court denies disclosure of whale meat embezzlement evidence

Press release - 11 August, 2009
Echoing the culture of cover-ups of the whale meat embezzlement scandal, which Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki are on trial for exposing, the Aomori district court has denied a defence counsel request for disclosure of evidence held by the prosecutor.

The evidence includes police files related to the embezzlement investigation and statements made by the alleged "owners" of the box of whale meat obtained by Junichi and Toru, and would help establish their innocence.

The decision significantly impacts Sato and Suzuki's right to a full and fair defence, and as such an appeal to the Sendai High Court will be lodged by the defence counsel on Thursday, August 13.

"It is unbelievable that the court has ruled that such significant evidence does not merit disclosure," said lead defence counsel Yuichi Kaido. "Disclosure of evidence to the defence is a key minimum component for a fair trial."

Two pre-trial meetings on October 2 and November 20 remain before the full public trial.

Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.

VVPR info: Greg McNevin - Greenpeace International Communications+81 (0)80 5416 6506, Kyoko Murakami - Greenpeace Japan Communications+81 (0)3 5338 9816, +81 (0)80 5088 3048,

Notes: In April 2008 Greenpeace began an investigation into whistleblower allegations that organised whale meat embezzlement was being conducted by crew inside Japan's so-called "scientific" whaling programme, which is funded by Japanese taxpayers. The informer was previously involved in the whaling programme, and following his advice Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki began an investigation, eventually discovering firm evidence that cardboard boxes containing whale meat were being secretly shipped to the homes of whaling fleet crew - and then sold for personal profit. Junichi delivered a box of this whale meat to the Tokyo Prosecutors' Office in May 2008, and filed a report of embezzlement. However, the embezzlement investigation was dropped on June 20 - the same day that both men were arrested and then held for 26 days before being charged with theft and trespass.