ACTIVISTS CHARGED FOR EXPOSING WHALE MEAT SCANDAL

Media release - July 11, 2008
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 Oxfam.

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CONTACT: Mike Crocker, Media Officer Greenpeace U.S.A., 202-319-2471; Cell: 202-215-8989.