It’s been almost two years since the wrongful arrest of Junichi and Toru for their roles in exposing the corruption and lies woven in the fabric that holds the whaling industry together. As the trial for those charges began, it seemed obvious to all in attendance that the case the prosecution put together is cut from the same cloth.
The trial opened up with the prosecution struggling to prove its own arguments and their witnesses being forced to agree with the defense on key points.
Although Japan maintains that whaling is conducted as "scientific research" and paid for with Japanese taxes, the everyday business of killing and processing whales falls to one commercial company.
A witness from this company and from the courier company used to ferry the embezzled meat around the country were in court to testify about what it looks like when whale meat and money change hands. While the story seemed to change quite a bit from original claims, one thing was for sure - it had nothing to do with research.
Not so "official" business
The head of sales for Kyodo Senpaku - the company contracted by the government's Institute for Cetacean Research, to run the whaling fleet - admitted under cross examination that "souvenirs" of whale meat were given to crew, but the cost was never accounted for in financial statements, despite the whaling program being a government funded project. This is the same official that previously made public statements where he insisted that there was no practice of giving out souvenir meat. He also admitted under oath that following the Greenpeace allegations in 2008, souvenirs are no longer given to officials.
The prosecution also called the manager of the Seino Transport courier company, which shipped the boxes of embezzled whale meat around Japan in April 2008 after the fleet returned from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. In his testimony he confirmed that he had paid the owner of the box about 30,000 yen (US$300) out of his own pocket, and never registered this payment. He also admitted that the owner had told him the box contained food and not the "cardboard" listed on the contents sheet.
Whaling on trial
The decision to engage in this politically motivated prosecution was made by the previous government in Japan. The new administration can remedy the shame of this damning UN opinion by ensuring that the trial will be fair, adhering to international legal standards. Further, it should re-examine the original allegations made by Junichi and Toru.
Prime Minister Hatoyama has already shown leadership. In Copenhagen he stood out with his support for ambitious action on climate change. Now he has the opportunity to be seen as a world leader in human rights, by ensuring that corruption is put on trial - rather than the honorable men who exposed it.
For the first time in Japanese judicial history a landmark opinion by a division of the United Nations Human Rights Council has declared that Junichi and Toru’s human rights were breached by the authorities.
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