Timeline of Tokyo Two

Page - June 8, 2010
Greenpeace’s Oceans Day events in Vancouver and Montreal were held to honour two Greenpeace activists in Japan known as the Tokyo Two, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki.

The story of the Tokyo Two began in January 2008. The embezzlement of whale meat at Japanese taxpayers’ expense exposed by Greenpeace has yet to be investigated. The activists who exposed the scandal, on the other hand, have been hounded by a justice system that does not recognize the role of peaceful civil disobedience. On Oceans Day, Junichi and Toru faced their final day in court before a verdict is given. They are scheduled to receive a verdict and any sentence that may go with it on September 6, 2010. The prosecutor has asked for jail time. Below is a timeline of the events in the case of the Tokyo Two. 

  • January 2008: Greenpeace is contacted by a former whaling fleet crew member, who says crew members of the Japanese whaling fleet regularly take whale meat off the ships and sell it for their own profit. The investigation into these allegations begins.
  • April 15, 2008: Factory ship Nisshin Maru docks in Tokyo Harbour after its five-month whaling voyage to the Southern Ocean and at least 93 boxes of “personal baggage” with a variety of labels such as “cardboard” or “salted stuff” addressed to the private homes of crewmembers are offloaded.
  • April 16, 2008: Greenpeace activists track one of the boxes to a depot in Aomori Prefecture. Junichi and Toru remove one of the boxes to verify its contents, which turn out to be 23.5 kg of prime whale meat cuts, worth between $1,160 and $3,470.
  • May 15, 2008: Concluding the four-month undercover investigation, Greenpeace Japan holds a press conference in Tokyo exposing the full details of the whale meat embezzlement scandal and displaying the box of stolen whale meat that was intercepted. Junichi and Toru then deliver the box, a full dossier detailing the investigation to the Public Prosecutor in Tokyo. The next day, a month after the box was intercepted, the transportation company, Seino, reported a missing box to the police.
  • May 20-27, 2008: The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office confirms there will be an investigation into the whale meat scandal. Junichi and Toru send detailed statements of what they did and why they did it to the police.
  • June 20, 2008: In the early hours of the morning, the Aomori District Public Prosecutors Office arrests Junichi and Toru in their homes, and they are later transferred to Aomori. A request to hold them in Tokyo is denied. Junichi and Toru are held in police detention in Aomori. Meanwhile in Tokyo, over 40 police raid the Greenpeace Japan office taking mobile phones, documents and computers. Homes of five staff members are also raided. The same day, the Tokyo public prosecutor announces he has dropped his investigation into the whale meat scandal.
  • June 22, 2008: Junichi and Toru are told they will be held for another 10 days without charge or chance for bail. (Under Japanese law, they can be held for up to 23 days without charge.)
  • June 30 to July 1, 2008: Junichi and Toru are told they will be held for a further 10 days without charge. Meanwhile, peaceful protests are held at Japanese embassies around the world in support of Junichi and Toru’s release and to call for a full investigation into the whale meat scandal.
  • July 10, 2008: A joint statement of concern is released by 35 international non-governmental organizations. The next day, Junichi and Toru are charged with trespass and theft, and remain in custody.
  • July 14, 2008: Amnesty International expresses its "deep concern" to the Japanese prime minister at the detention of Junichi and Toru, qualifying the Japanese government’s conduct as an attempt to intimidate activists and NGOs. A quarter of a million people emailed the prime minister asking for release of the Tokyo Two.
  • July 15, 2008: Junichi and Toru are granted bail by an Aomori judge. The prosecutor immediately appeals the decision, but his appeal is turned down. After 26 days in police detention, Junichi and Toru are finally released, but still face criminal prosecution.
  • Dec. 9, 2008: Representatives of millions of Greenpeace supporters, acting as “co-defendants,” arrive at the Japanese prime minister’s office in Tokyo to demand an end to the political persecution of Junichi and Toru and to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Feb. 13, 2009: The Tokyo Two have their first day in court, at the pre-trial hearing in the city of Aomori.
  • March 19, 2009: Greenpeace lodges an appeal against Japanese government censorship, calling on the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) to release uncensored documentation of whale meat sales. Previously, Greenpeace obtained these documents through a 2008 Freedom of Information request, but the FAJ had blacked out large sections. Read Japan's Stolen Whale Meat Part 2: The Cover Up.
  • March 23, 2009: Three independent international experts submit key testimonies to the Japanese court with human rights expert Dirk Voorhoof saying that sanctioning the Tokyo Two could have “a serious chilling effect on others who report on embezzlement or other wrongdoing,” and that a criminal conviction of the two would amount to a “violation of the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be properly informed about the whale meat embezzlement in Japan.”
  • April 10-16, 2009: Following relaxation of some bail restrictions, Junichi and Toru are allowed to go back to work in the Greenpeace Japan office — just not at the same time. They are still not allowed to associate with each other.
  • April 14, 2009: Nisshin Maru, creeps back into port without the usual fanfare.
  • May 15, 2009: A court in Aomori, Japan delivers a series of setbacks to the prosecution and the Japanese government’s attempts to cover up an embezzlement scandal within the whaling industry.
  • Feb. 8, 2010: As the Tokyo Two prepare to take the stand in court, the violation of their human rights was confirmed by a UN Humans Rights Council working group.
  • Feb. 15, 2010: The first day of the Tokyo Two trial begins and the prosecution immediately starts to struggle.
  • March 8-10, 2010: The trial continues as a former whaler takes to the stand and casts serious doubts on the official investigation into Greenpeace’s allegations of embezzlement within Japan’s whaling industry. A former whaler details the scale of corruption he witnessed during his time with the whaling fleet. Junichi and Toru spend two very long and intense days in court defending the honourable actions they took to expose corruption within Japan’s whaling industry.
  • May 14, 2010: The final day of witness testimony sees two whalers who were involved in the whale meat embezzlement scandal. The whalers contradict themselves, each other, their own police statements, the prosecutor’s claims and the official statements from Japanese authorities. Their testimony reveals whale meat was being illegally taken, not only by crew, but also by officials. And they testified that Kyodo Senpaku, the contractor that runs the whaling fleet, was even delivering whale meat gifts to the Fisheries Agency of Japan, which authorizes the so-called research whaling program in the Southern Ocean. Peaceful protests continue around the world.
  • June 8, 2010: The prosecution and defence conclude their cases in Aomori on World Oceans Day. The prosecution recommends a jail sentence of 18 months. The court is scheduled to deliver its verdict for the Tokyo Two, and any sentence that may go with it, on September 6, 2010.