If calling for an end to whaling in a whale sanctuary and the abuse of tax payers' money is a crime - the Japanese police should get busy!
Support has come in from all over the planet. Activists have
been busy in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Hong Kong,
the US, Israel, Greece, Russia, New Zealand, the Netherland, Mexico
The two activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, attended a
closed "pre-trial" court session in the Japanese city of Aomori on
February 13th, where they face a politically-driven prosecution and
up to ten years in prison for alleged theft and trespass. The two
were arrested in June 2008, after they exposed
a major embezzlement scandal at the heart of the Japanese
government-sponsored whale hunt. They exposed abuse of taxpayer
subsidies in the hope of prompting an independent investigation
into the corrupt whale industry.
The Tokyo Two gathered
firm evidence that boxes of whale meat were being secretly
shipped to the homes of whaling fleet crew and sold for personal
gain. Junichi took a box of whale meat that had been disguised as
personal luggage from a depot and handed it over it to the Tokyo
Prosecutors' Office in May 2008 while filing a report of
embezzlement. But the investigation was dropped on June 20th - the
same day that both activists were arrested and then held for 26
days before being charged. They were interrogated for up to 12
hours day while handcuffed and strapped to chairs. Toru went on a
hunger strike for a week and refused to speak for 13 days to
highlight his political imprisonment.
Junichi (left), Toru (right), and
their lead counsel, Yuichi Kaido (centre) facereporters at a press
briefing following their first pre-trial hearing at Aomori District
Since Junichi and Toru were released they have not been allowed
to talk to eachother or other Greenpeace activists. They are
forbidden to be away from their homes for extended periods and they
cannot leave the country. They can only speak with
journalistsseparately, in their lawyers' office. Both havebeen
followed by undercover police and receivedanonymous threats after
their addresses were revealed by the media.
The Tokyo Two had no intent of illegal acquisition for personal
gain, which is one of the elements that defines the crime of
"theft" under Japanese law. And their defence counsel is also using
international law to argue that Junichi and Toru were exercising
their right to freedom of expression - guaranteed in the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). If
public watchdogs - such as media and non-governmental organisations
- are to function effectively, freedom of expression is essential.
Any conviction of a criminal offence in this instance would breach
Japan's obligations under the ICCPR.
Junichi and Toru face a further pre-trial hearing on 23 March,
while the start date of the public trial is yet to be decided. But
they are not facing this alone. Over 250,000 people are standing
beside them in solidarity as
'co-defendants' who have asked Japan to arrest them too if
defending whales is a crime.
Breaking the ice
In order to raise awareness in Japan about this injustice and to
promote our other campaigns
we recently opened a communications centre in the
northernfishing district of Aomori were the Tokyo Two trial is
being held. And during the Sapporo Snow Festival in Hokkaido we
added some inspiration with an ice sculpture celebrating the beauty
and importance of our oceans. Carved by artist Yasuhiro Sone, the
sculpture included a humpback whale, a dolphin and a tuna - among
other sea creatures - swimming around a globe. The Festival is a
major event in Japan with up to two million visitors.
Our office in Japan is under attack and our activists are being
prosecuted as a warning to citizens who bring whaling into
question. But we are not giving up. The only way we can stop whales
being harpooned in the SouthernOcean Whale Sanctuary is to bring
down the whaling industry in Japan.
We have it on its knees and with enough support we can finish
it - forever.
If defending whales is a crime - ask Japan to arrest you too!
Without donations from individuals like you we would not be able to support our activists and continue to push for an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean. Please give what you can.