Today's Guardian picks up an interview with Junichi Sato about his arrest in Japan for exposing corruption in the whaling industry. About the extreme crackdown on Greenpeace when 40 police raided the office to arrest him and seized membership lists and computer disks. About his experience of being strapped to a chair and interrogated. About being accused of being no better than Aum Supreme Truth, the doomsday cult that carried out a deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

The Japan Times is finally running the story as well -- the first time the truth about this political persecution is coming out in the Japanese press.

Amnesty has condemned the arrest as politically motivated.

Whaling on trial

"We want Prime Minister Aso to know that if Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki are to be tried for exposing whale meat embezzlement and working to end the killing of whales in the Japanese Government's 'research' programme in the Southern Ocean, then we should all be arrested," said Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan. "It's not Greenpeace activists who should be put on trial; it is the government-backed whaling programme in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary."


Following a Greenpeace undercover investigation in May 2008 that exposed the embezzlement of whale meat from the taxpayer-funded whaling fleet, Japanese authorities responded with a politically-motivated prosecution, arresting Junichi Sato and Toru uzuki and raiding the Greenpeace Japan office in June 2008. They have now been awaiting trial for 172 days under bail conditions which prevent hem from continuing their Greenpeace campaign work to end whaling.

The trial is expected to begin early next year; they are both facing up to 10 years imprisonment.

Meanwhile, events will be happening throughout today and tomorrow at Japanese embassies in Brazil, USA, New Zealand, Argentina, France, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Mexico, Spain, Greece, Canada,  Italy and on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, activists declared themselves as 'co-defendants', by asking the Japanese government to "Arrest Me Too" and to put "Whaling on Trial".

Greenpeace Executive Directors, and Paddy Hart, ex-whaler, in Tokyo. ©Greenpeace/Sutton- Hibbert

Tomorrow, December 10th, is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We're running a full-page ad in the IHT/Asahi Shimbun Asian edition, the English language version of one of Japan's leading papers. We're running it inverted, so the reader has to turn it over to read the text (and anyone there in Tokyo, if you can capture video of someone turning their paper over to read the ad on the subway or in a cafe, do send it along!)


The text reads as follows:

Headline: In a world turned upside down, you can be arrested for exposing a crime.

Two Greenpeace activists were arrested for exposing a scandal involving the embezzlement of whale meat from the annual Southern Ocean hunt, which is subsidized by Japanese taxpayers. One of Japan's leading newspapers, Asahi Shimbun, thought there was sufficient evidence for a full investigation.(1) The Tokyo District Prosecutor began an enquiry. But it was shut down the same day that police raided the Greenpeace offices, membership lists were seized, and the activists themselves were arrested.


The unnecessary detention of these two peaceful protesters is of grave concern. It is further evidence that the United Nations had good reason to raise questions about the strength of democracy in Japan when the Human Rights Committee reprimanded the Japanese government for "unreasonable restrictions placed on freedom of expression."

Amnesty International has denounced this arrest as politically motivated.(2) A quarter of a million people worldwide have written to the Japanese Prime Minister to demand the release of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki.

Is it a crime to expose embezzlement? If so, there are nearly 3 million Greenpeace members, including many Japanese citizens, who should also be arrested for the crime of colluding with Junichi and Toru, funding them, and supporting their efforts to expose this scandal.

Whaling costs the Japanese taxpayer billions of yen every year, yet earns only a tenth of the profits of the Japanese toothbrush industry. It is a subsidized program that 71% of the public do not support. A program that generates no useful science. A program that benefits few but a handful of government bureaucrats. And a program that one Japanese government spokesperson was quoted describing as "uneconomic and increasingly costly to Japan's image." (3)

Today, on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we ask Prime Minister Aso to prosecute the real criminals, and put an end to the national embarrassment of whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. (1) Asahi Shimbun editorial, 21 May 2008 (2) Press Release, 15 July 2008 (3) Sidney Morning Herald, quoting Tomohiko Taniguchi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman 21 November 2008

You can help! Sign the petition to say that if opposing whaling is a crime, you're guilty too.


You can also join Junichi and Toru in putting whaling on trial by contributing to our "Spartacus petition."

What? You don't know the story of Spartacus? He was the leader of a slave revolt in ancient Rome.  When soldiers put down the uprising, the Romans demanded to know which of the slaves was Spartacus.  One by one, each slave stood up to declare that he was Spartacus: the message was clear -- you can persecute one of us, but there will always be another to take their place. You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire.

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