Sendai, Japan, May 20, 2011 - Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, who in 2008 exposed an embezzlement ring within the Japanese whaling industry, will launch an appeal in the Sendai High Court on Tuesday May 24, in response to their unjust conviction in the Aomori district court.
On September 6 2010, Sato and Suzuki - known as the Tokyo Two - were handed a one-year jail term suspended for three years, for “theft” and “trespass” after they intercepted a box of embezzled whale meat and handed it in to the Japanese authorities with a request for a full investigation (1).
While trial evidence and witness testimony clearly illustrated that the two’s actions were justified, proportional and in the public interest, they were vindicated again in December 2010 when officials from the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) apologised for the misconduct of five officials who accepted gifts of whale meat (2) totalling approximately US$3,000 – recognising the improprieties Sato and Suzuki sought to expose existed. A further two key officials - including the FAJ’s second in command and prominent IWC negotiator, Jun Yamashita - were handed warnings, as they were ultimately responsible for the actions of their staff.
“The FAJ’s apology and admission of official impropriety is the first time the Japanese authorities have acknowledged the wrongdoing we exposed in 2008,” said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director. “By punishing Toru and I but only apologising instead of investigating the real crime, the government is signalling that corruption is acceptable but exposing it is not. This is absolutely wrong in a democratic society.”
“The only way justice can be done, is for the High Court to reverse our conviction, and the government undertake a full investigation into the embezzlement scandal we exposed and the authorities admitted,” said Sato.
The appeal begins on Tuesday May 24 at 1:30pm in Sendai, Japan.
Greg McNevin, Greenpeace International Communications, Tokyo +81 80 3930 3341
Greenpeace International Press Desk Hotline, Amsterdam +31 20 7182470
Images from the T2 appeal in Sendai will be available from:
Greenpeace International Picture Desk, , +31629001152
A press conference will follow the appeal at 5:00pm Tokyo Time on the 24th. It will be broadcast on ustream with simultaneous interpretation:
1) In January 2008, Greenpeace began an investigation into insider 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 as a result of his information, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki began an investigation, eventually discovering firm proof that cardboard boxes containing whale meat were being secretly shipped to the homes of whaling fleet crew - and then sold for personal profit. 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. However, the embezzlement investigation was dropped on 20 June, and on the same day both men were arrested and then held for 26 days, 23 of which were without charge. The Tokyo Two, as Sato and Suzuki are now known, were convicted of theft and trespass on September 6, 2010, and sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for three years.
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. They are now appealing the court’s decision.
The case of Sato and Suzuki has generated significant international attention, from senior political figures, including Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, international human rights groups and legal experts. During a visit to Japan last year, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed concern about the case particularly with regard to freedom of expression and association. She emphasised the importance of investigations by NGOs to society in general and how their work should be respected.
2) Greenpeace response to FAJ apology: http://bit.ly/iczhrW
The box of embezzled meat Sato and Suzuki intercepted was worth $550 according to prosecutors – far less than what industry officials have now admitted to taking, and according to evidence and witness testimony from the Tokyo Two trial, what has been admitted is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Updated Whaling on Trial Dossier detailing the entire Tokyo Two Case: http://bit.ly/cWd211