The two Greenpeace Japan activists, arrested and charged for intercepting a box of whale meat illegally smuggled off the Japanese whaling fleet, have been released on bail, after 26 days in custody.
Late last evening, a panel of three judges in Aomori, Japan,
granted the release of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, after an
attempt by the local prosecutor to appeal the same decision made
earlier in the day. Only 10% of bail applications are successful in
Japan. The two will be reunited with their families later today.
Their trial date has not yet been set.
"We are extremely relieved that our two activists have finally
been released. However, our biggest question remains unanswered:
why did the Japanese Prosecutor drop his investigation into the
compelling evidence of whale meat embezzlement by whaling crew
members brought to him by Greenpeace?" said Frode Pleym of
Earlier this year, working from information given by former and
current employees of whaling fleet operator Kyodo Senpaku,
Greenpeace tracked the offloading of smuggled whale meat from the
factory ship Nisshin Maru destined for crew members' homes. One of
four boxes destined for the same private address was intercepted
and the contents checked. This box, containing up to US$3000 worth
of prime meat, but labelled as containing "cardboard", was
displayed at a press conference on May 15th, before being turned
over to the Tokyo District public prosecutor, who suddenly dropped
his investigation on June 10, the day the two activists were
"We call on the Government to reinstate its investigation into
the corruption in the whaling fleet," said Pleym. "What Greenpeace
has exposed points clearly to a very big scandal at Japanese
taxpayers' expense and in clear breach of international rules
concerning Japans so-called scientific whaling programme."
Since the two activists were arrested, there has been a growing
outcry over their detention. More than 30 non-Governmental
organisations have signed up to a statement of concern.
On Monday, Amnesty International sent a strongly worded letter
to the Japanese Prime Minister demanding the release of Junichi and
Toru. Nearly a quarter of a million people have sent a message to
the Japanese Government calling for the two to be released and for
a renewed investigation into the whale meat embezzlement scandal,
this was backed by 35 protests at Japanese embassies and consulates
in 31 countries.
Other contacts: Frode Pleym in Tokyo: +81 803 206 6083Cindy Baxter in Amsterdam: +31 646 197 332