Aomori Court leaves Tokyo Two trial to languish

Press release - 20 November, 2009
In a week marked by several events that could have significant bearing on the future of Japan's so-called "scientific" whaling operation, the pre-trial process of Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki has been left languishing by the Aomori District Court, with the Judges sitting on the case again making no concrete decisions on either evidence or witnesses.

The lack of progress comes one day after the whaling fleet departed for its annual hunt in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary, and two days after the Tokyo Supreme Court rejected a special appeal for disclosure of evidence in the case(1), denying the defendants access to important means to prove their innocence.

Sato and Suzuki, known as the Tokyo Two, were seeking disclosure of evidence that would have helped further prove the existence of an embezzlement scandal covered up by the government, justifying their actions in exposing it.

Despite the scandal being covered up, last week's Spending Review Committee recommendation that all funding for the Overseas Fisheries Cooperation Fund post 2010 be cut could spell the end of "research" whaling. The fund gives loans to the Institute of Cetacean Research to run its discredited science programme, and if these are cut it is unlikely to survive.

In its submission to the Review Committee, Greenpeace Japan highlighted the lack of demand for whale meat, the failure of the programme to produce useful science, the fact that former civil servants who manage the programme are its main beneficiaries, and crucially, the illegal conduct within the programme exposed by the Tokyo Two.

The final pre-trial is expected to take place on January 15.

Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.

Other contacts: Greg McNevin - Greenpeace International Communications, +31 (0)6 2900 1152, Kyoko Murakami - Greenpeace Japan Communications, +81 (0)80 5008 3048,

Notes: (1) Greenpeace argues that non-disclosure of the evidence amounts to a violation of Article 37(2) of the Japanese Constitution, as well as Article 14(3)(b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which guarantee the right to a fair trial.Similar failures to disclose evidence have earned Japan repeated criticism from UN human rights bodies:1. UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the Fifth Periodic Report of Japan submitted under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 18 December 2008, UN Doc. CCPR/C/JPN/CO/5. Relevant paragraphs: 18 and 26.2. UN Committee Against Torture, Concluding Observations on the Initial Periodic Report of Japan submitted under Article 19 of the UN Convention Against Torture, 3 August 2007, UN Doc. CAT/C/JPN/CO/1. Relevant paragraphs: 13 and 153. UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the Fourth Periodic Report of Japan submitted under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 19 November 1998, UN Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add.102. Relevant paragraph: 26All available through April 2008, Greenpeace began an investigation into whistleblower 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 following his advice Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki began an investigation, eventually discovering firm evidence that cardboard boxes containing whale meat were being secretly shipped to the homes of whaling fleet crew - and then sold for personal profit. Junichi delivered a box of this whale meat to the Tokyo Prosecutors' Office in May 2008, and filed a report of embezzlement. However, the embezzlement investigation was dropped on 20 June - the same day that both men were arrested and then held for 26 days before being charged with theft and trespass.More: International supports the appeal for disclosure of evidence:

Exp. contact date: 2009-02-02 00:00:00