Sendai, Japan – The Sendai High Court today rejected a request from Greenpeace Japan executive director and anti-whaling activist Junichi Sato to submit new evidence and witnesses in light of the fact that the Fisheries Agency of Japan has admitted that its officials did take whale meat as “gifts.”
Sato appeared in court to call on it to dismiss last year’s conviction of himself and colleague Toru Suzuki, after they exposed embezzlement within Japan’s whaling
industry. Sato was also allowed to informally discuss the embezzlement issue and provide information on work Greenpeace has done to monitor radiation releases from the Fukushima disaster to provide a picture of the role Greenpeace and other activists play in civil society.
Known as the Tokyo Two, Sato and Suzuki were convicted of “theft and “trespass” by the Aomori District Court in September 2010. Although Sato and Suzuki’s findings were confirmed in December 2010 when officials from Japan’s Fisheries Agency admitted to improprieties in the handling of whale meat, the High Court has not allowed any additional witnesses or evidence to be submitted.
Their investigation into Japan's so-called ’scientific‘ whaling program, funded by Japanese taxpayers, discovered firm proof that cardboard boxes containing whale meat were being sold for personal profit by crew members. A box of this whale meat was intercepted at a mail depot and delivered to the Tokyo Prosecutors' Office in May 2008, where Sato filed a report of embezzlement. The embezzlement investigation was dropped on 20 June, and both men were arrested and then held for 26 days, 23 without charge. Sato and Suzuki were convicted of theft and trespass on September 6, 2010, and sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years.
“The wrongdoing Toru and I sought to expose has now been admitted officially, yet the court is still apparently looking at our actions as a simple case of “theft” and “trespass” when it is clearly not,” said Sato. “The Aomori court ignored strong evidence and testimony that justified our actions, and disregarded international human rights
agreements when it convicted us. The High Court should not perpetuate this black mark on Japan’s human rights record.”
On December 22, 2010, the Fisheries Agency of Japan announced that it was reprimanding five of its officials, and giving formal warnings to two senior officials, for accepting whale meat gifts from the industry – further confirming Sato and Suzuki’s accusations of broad-scale corruption.
“It is not acceptable to punish activists for exposing wrongdoing by government agents while those who committed the bigger crimes walk free. The High Court must overturn our conviction, and the authorities must fully investigate the whale meat embezzlement scandal we exposed.”
The High Court will give its verdict on the appeal on July 12.
Watch the press conference following the appeal on Ustream:
United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on the importance of investigations by NGOs to society in general and how their work should be respected: http://www.greenpeace.org/tokyo-two
Updated Whaling on Trial Dossier detailing the entire Tokyo Two Case: