Whaling on trial (part 2)

Tokyo Two take the stand as the prosecution tries to whitewash whale meat scandal

Feature story - 10 March, 2010
This week our activists, Junichi and Toru, spent two very long and intense days in court, defending the honourable actions they took to expose the corruption within Japan's whaling industry. As the prosecution fumbled its desperate attempt to cast the 'Tokyo Two' as criminals, it became obvious that whaling really is on trial in Aomori.

The Tokyo Two trial reached a climax with strong testimonies from Junich and Toru.

Having failed to keep the truth about the embezzlement of whale meat out of the trial at every stage - the prosecutor suggested that since the whalers took prime cuts of whale meat home quite openly, and did not hide this from officials in the industry then practice wasn't illegal.

Smells like organised crime to us!

If the whaling industry officials don't think they had anything to hide, then why did they try to hide it? The whaling industry costs the Japanese people more than Y1.2 billion (about $13 million) per year. We'd like to see the prosecution try and explain the "legal" whale meat gifts to the Japanese public, as they are paid for with taxpayer money.

Yesterday, Junichi gave evidence to the court and today he was cross-examined along with Toru - who explained very clearly the comprehensive and professional nature of their investigation and the lengths they went to in order to substantiate the allegations made by the whaling industry whistleblowers.

Junichi and Toru explained why they made the decision to seize the box of embezzled whale meat and why it was a final and crucial piece of evidence needed before delivering their dossier to the Tokyo Prosecutor.

State of fear

When the prosecution asked why the pair did not report the embezzlement allegations to the authorities immediately - Junichi explained that he believed the police might not investigate them unless they were compelled by overwhelming evidence - particularly since politicians appeared to be involved in the scandal. He stressed that this concern has been borne out by the subsequent heavy-handed reaction of the Japanese authorities. No less than 75 police officers raided our Tokyo office and the homes of five Greenpeace staff members. They failed to disclose relevant evidence that we requested and have subjected Junichi and Toru to a prosecution lasting almost two years - while none of the whalers have been prosecuted.

Junichi was on the stand for 3 hours yesterday. He began by describing his early life, his university education in the US and Mexico, and how he was drawn to activism against poverty and working with Native Americans and poor communities in Nicaragua. He spoke of his motivations to apply for a job at Greenpeace in Japan and told the court about our organisation - what we do and why he decided to campaign for the whales in Japan.

He then went on to describe the Greenpeace whales campaign, Japan's position on whaling and their so-called "research" whaling programme in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. He outlined the corruption that he uncovered with Toru, the approach from two whistleblowers who they could not ignore, how and why they performed their investigation. He concluded that tax payers money was being used illegally and that both he and Toru felt it was important to stand up and expose corruption no matter how high up it goes.

Junichi with the whale meat when the Tokyo Two exposed the scandal to the media in Japan

Rights over wrongdoing

In conclusion Junichi addressed the judges directly, calling upon them to stand firm, to refuse to bow to pressure from corrupt officials desire to see ordinary citizens punished for exposing wrongdoing in the government. In most democratic countries this is a given, a right, but not in Japan. It was a very emotional direct appeal to the court.

Toru's evidence complemented Junichi's. He explained Greenpeace's professionalism and sincerity for doing the right thing. He was equally emphatic. Toru laid out his own background for the court - describing the charitable organsations that he created in Japan, his work with homeless people and local communities. He spoke of how he became involved with the Greenpeace agriculture campaign as a volunteer and how - following encouragement from his wife - he ended up working for us in his current position.

The court learned about our history of non-violent direct action, bearing witness, and our commitment to finding solutions to make the world a better place. Toru then told the court that he was certain whaling in the Southern Ocean was wrong and that the whale meat embezzlement was an offence to citizens of Japan.

He explained our methods of tracking the embezzled whale meat box, cross checking data, ensuring things were checked and double checked, documenting the investigation on tape as evidence, reviewing the Fisheries Agency public information and websites, making calls for verification and taking the time to go on scouting missions.

Under pressure

Toru detailed the completion of the exhaustive investigation, and how the Tokyo Prosecutor promised to fully investigate their claims - only to suddenly drop the case one day before Junichi and Toru were arrested.

Prosecutor: "Why didn't you take the box directly to the police?"

Toru:"We felt we needed strong proof so the police couldn't ignore it. We had information that politicians were receiving whale meat so I didn't think the police would take action. We felt we needed to get media and society involved. What we have gone through - our arrest, the failure to disclose information, the absence of meaningful investigation and everything I have experienced up to this day - makes me confident that my suspicions were right."

He noted that the warrant was for a Y50,000 ($500 USD) box of whale meat and wondered why so many police were needed. Eight police also came to Toru's home. During the arrest one of the officers remarked to him that it was very unusual to have this many police involved, saying that he thought "what you did was great."

Speaking directly to the judges, looking them in the eye, Toru argued that Japanese authorities should not pressure citizens like this, citizens who are trying to change society for the better - by exposing unethical andillegal activities.

UPDATE: March 11th: Prof. Dirk Voorhoof, an independent international expert on freedom of expression, testified at the trial today and called for Junichi and Toru's to be acquitted of any crime - arguing that their actions were justified as they were revealing detailed information in the public interest.

He said there was no alternative way to bring the embezzlement information out into the open effectively and warned that Japanese authorities have already violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in their treatment of Junichi and Toru. He also noted that if a conviction is recorded against the two it would go against the ICCPR and would deter others from exposing government corruption.

"This is not just a case about theft and trespass. This is about organised embezzlement and an issue of public interest in which an NGO, in this case Greenpeace, has fulfilled its role as a public watchdog," said Prof. Voorhoof. "If you convict a journalist, a citizen or an NGO for watchdog activities, it has a chilling effect on the future willingness of people to participate in investigations, and in the long term this has an inevitable effect on the quality of democracy. This case is a real opportunity for the court to issue a landmark judgement, where the right to investigate and gather information under the ICCPR is assured, enabling Japan to fulfil its human rights obligations."

The prosecution tried to focus the court's attention once again - on the box of whalemeat and the taking of the box but Prof. Voorhoof certainly stole the show - making eloquent points that the local media frantically wrote down.

Silent Witness

Another key to the whole case - is our original Whale Meat Scandal investigation report. It dominates the court room, defence, prosecution and witness evidence. It is referred to constantly, it sits on each side desks and is projected onto the courtroom video screens and used to show graphics of what whale meat, the box, the transport depot and FAJ statements look like. The Judges peer at it regularly and there is no question that whaling is on trial in Aomori - and in Japan.

Get your own copy of the full investigation

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