Tokyo Two face jail with no case to answer

Feature story - May 14, 2010
Greenpeace anti-whaling activists, Junichi Sato, and Toru Suzuki, appeared in court again - to face whalers at the heart of Japan's corrupt whaling industry which they exposed. But despite further compelling evidence of government corruption heard by the jury - our activists have been warned by their lawyers that they still run a serious risk of jail time.

The final day of witness testimony saw two whalers who were involved in the whale meat embezzlement scandal on one side of the courtroom and on the other, Junichi and Toru. The whalers consistently contradicted themselves, each other, their own police statements, the prosecutor's claims, and the official statements from Japanese authorities. Their testimony revealed that whale meat was being illegally taken, not only by crew, but also by officials. And they testified that Kyodo Senpaku, the contractor which runs the whaling fleet, was even delivering whale meat gifts to the Fisheries Agency of Japan - which authorizes the so called "research" whaling program in the Southern Ocean.

On trial for exposing corruption

Junichi and Toru were arrested in 2008, after they had intercepted and handed to the authorities a box of whale meat that proved our claims of large scale corruption in the Japanese taxpayer-funded whaling industry.

Their defense is one of justification, based on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights - which upholds the right to take reasonable action in the public interest to expose wrongdoing. As the whaling program in Japan is wholly funded by tax-payers, it is clearly in the public interest to expose corruption and embezzlement by the authorities.

"Our investigation set out to prove that there is routine embezzlement from a taxpayer-funded programme and our defence that this investigation was in the public interest has been proven. It is deeply worrying that despite overwhelming evidence showing that we should be acquitted, we are being told that there is a growing chance that we will be sent to jail." -- Junichi Sato

The Tokyo Two case is also supported by the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that the detention of Junichi and Toru breached international human rights agreements and that the prosecution is political. Amnesty International has also raised concerns about their treatment and prosecution, along with many other organizations, politicians and lawyers.

"Through the course of this trial we have consistently proven that we acted in the public interest, which is protected under international law. We trust that the court will take this into account, and acquit us." -- Toru Suzuki

Even Japanese media are starting to question the false claims of the authorities and the failure of the prosecution to provide a consistent version of events. They are also raising concerns about the legitimacy of the prosecution and the heavy handed, disproportionate approach of the authorities.

The world is watching

Even if Junichi and Toru were guilty of stealing a box of whale meat worth $550 at the time, a year in jail - the sentence defense lawyers fear could be imposed - would be wholly disproportionate. The 26 days that they have already served in pre-charge detention should be more than sufficient in any democratic judicial system. But of course - they are not guilty of theft since they intercepted the box as evidence and handed it to the authorities.

If Japan sentences the Tokyo Two to jail - it will be not be because they are guilty, but because the Japanese authorities have decided to use Junichi and Toru as a political tool in the current whaling debate. If Junichi and Toru are jailed, it will be the first time in more than two decades that Greenpeace activists have served notable jail time, and a worrying sign that some governments are willing to treat activists as criminals rather than the watchdogs free and open societies desperately need.

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Whaling should be on trial, not the people opposing it!