Whaling on trial (UPDATED)

Bringing home the bacon

Feature story - 8 March, 2010
The Tokyo Two trial continued today as a former whaler took to the stand and cast serious doubt on the veracity of the official investigation into our allegations of institutional embezzlement within Japan's whaling industry. He further revealed how the whaling crew kept for themselves the meat from baby whales caught in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Nearly half a million calls for justice have been made in support of the 'Tokyo Two'

As a result of our investigation, in 2008, the Fisheries Agency of Japan ordered the Institute for Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku, the fleet operator, to conduct an internal inquiry into the Greenpeace allegations of embezzlement of whale meat. The inquiry officials claimed every crew member had been interviewed in an exhaustive investigation and no evidence of corruption could be found. Instead, Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, known as the Tokyo Two, were arrested.

In court today, the ex-whaler who testified as a defense witness, revealed that he had not been interviewed as part of that inquiry. This is a serious omission considering he was at the centre of our allegations regarding embezzlement and corruption within Japan's government funded whaling industry.

Whale meat: the truth emerges

Before the scandal was exposed, an official of the Japanese Fisheries Agency claimed that whale meat was never given to crew. But after Junichi and Toru exposed the embezzlement, responses from those involved with the whaling fleet were many and varied. Kyodo Senpaku, the company who operated the fleet, changed their story three times in almost as many days. The company now claims that each crew member receives 9.5kg of whale meat.

During questioning today, the former whaler also said that when young whales were caught, they were kept for the crew and processed separately. He told the court that their flesh is more tender and perfect for the best "unesu" (whalebacon). He said that this is the meat that is given to crew members as "souvenirs". This admission directly contradicts the testimony of Kyodo Senpaku's Head of Sales, who under questioning on February 15 said that the meat given away was not of high quality. And it was "Unesu" meat that Junichi and Toru intercepted and gave to the Tokyo District Prosecutor as evidence of embezzlement.

Read the full dossier of the whale meat scandal and the Tokyo Two trial.

Check out the latest blog on the trial from Allison, who is supporting the team in Japan.

UPDATE: March 9th, A former whaler detailed the scale of corruption that he witnessed during his time with the whaling fleet. He told the court that souvenir whale meat was sent to Diet Members (Japanese parliamentarians) and to officials from the Fisheries Agency of Japan. He added that officials, on the whaling fleet's factory ship, took large portions of highly prized tail meat for themselves - claiming it was for research purposes. He also told the court - that when he raised his concerns with officials from Kyodo Senpaku, the fleet operator, he was transferred to a different job onboard one of the "non-lethal" research ships.

The informer, who was a whaler for 40 years, was allowed to give evidence behind a screen to protect his identity from all but the judges and legal representatives, for fear of reprisal over his incriminating testimony. He said that after he came to us as an informer, the police tried to get him to change his statement before the trial and to deny he had ever witnessed or taken part any embezzlement of whale meat. He refused.

Stay tuned!

The trial continues this week. Junichi will present his first round of evidence and both will be questioned on March 10. Finally, Prof. Dirk Voorhoof, an independent expert on Freedom of Expression, will give evidence on March 11. The trial continues through May and we're expecting a verdict sometime in June. We'll publish updates from this week right here in this story. But you can also follow the trial by becoming a fan of Junichi and Toru on Facebook or following them on Twitter.

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