Two Greenpeace activists have been charged with theft and trespass after they exposed a major scandal around the embezzlement of whale meat from the Japanese government-sponsored Southern Ocean whaling program. The prosecutor in Aomori, Japan, today charged Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki with theft and trespass, following three weeks in police detention, despite widespread international protest.
The two activists were
arrested on June 20th, more than a month after a Greenpeace
investigation confirmed information from former whaling fleet
employees that crew were smuggling whale meat from the factory ship
Nisshin Maru to their homes to sell for personal profit.
"From the beginning it has been
clear that the arrest and detention and now the charging of the two
activists has been politically motivated, and that powerful forces
within the Japanese establishment are attempting to silence
legitimate peaceful protest, in order to protect the so-called
scientific whaling program," said Gerd Leipold, Greenpeace
International Executive Director.
"It was more than simply a
domestic police investigation into the alleged theft of the box;
Junichi and Toru would not have been detained had they intercepted
any other type of contraband and handed it to the authorities for
investigation," said Phil Kline, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner.
After Junichi Sato and Toru
Suzuki were arrested, they were held for three weeks without
charge, despite offering to cooperate with any police investigation
and having already submitted, under their own initiative, written
statements about the undercover investigation, which revealed
large-scale theft of meat from the tax-payer whaling program.
Almost a quarter a million people
have sent letters to the Japanese Government calling for the
release of Junichi and Toru and to demand a full investigation into
the whale meat embezzlement scandal. Protests have been held
outside Japanese embassies in 35 cities across 30 countries. Nearly
30 environmental and human rights organizations have either put
their names to an NGO statement of protest, or sent letters of
support including Amnesty International, the Lawyers Network for
Human Rights Observation, International Fund for Animal Welfare,
InArticle 19, Transparency International, Oceana, Ubuntu, and
CONTACT: Mike Crocker, Media
Officer Greenpeace U.S.A., 202-319-2471; Cell: 202-215-8989.