Activists released; time to investigate whaling fleet corruption - Greenpeace

Press release - 15 July, 2008
The two Greenpeace Japan activists, arrested and charged for intercepting a box of whale meat illegally smuggled off the Japanese whaling fleet, have been released on bail, after 26 days in custody.

Late last evening, a panel of three judges in Aomori, Japan, granted the release of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, after an attempt by the local prosecutor to appeal the same decision made earlier in the day. Only 10% of bail applications are successful in Japan. The two will be reunited with their families later today. Their trial date has not yet been set.

"We are extremely relieved that our two activists have finally been released. However, our biggest question remains unanswered: why did the Japanese Prosecutor drop his investigation into the compelling evidence of whale meat embezzlement by whaling crew members brought to him by Greenpeace?" said Frode Pleym of Greenpeace.

Earlier this year, working from information given by former and current employees of whaling fleet operator Kyodo Senpaku, Greenpeace tracked the offloading of smuggled whale meat from the factory ship Nisshin Maru destined for crew members' homes. One of four boxes destined for the same private address was intercepted and the contents checked. This box, containing up to US$3000 worth of prime meat, but labelled as containing "cardboard", was displayed at a press conference on May 15th, before being turned over to the Tokyo District public prosecutor, who suddenly dropped his investigation on June 10, the day the two activists were arrested.

"We call on the Government to reinstate its investigation into the corruption in the whaling fleet," said Pleym. "What Greenpeace has exposed points clearly to a very big scandal at Japanese taxpayers' expense and in clear breach of international rules concerning Japans so-called scientific whaling programme."

Since the two activists were arrested, there has been a growing outcry over their detention. More than 30 non-Governmental organisations have signed up to a statement of concern.

On Monday, Amnesty International sent a strongly worded letter to the Japanese Prime Minister demanding the release of Junichi and Toru. Nearly a quarter of a million people have sent a message to the Japanese Government calling for the two to be released and for a renewed investigation into the whale meat embezzlement scandal, this was backed by 35 protests at Japanese embassies and consulates in 31 countries.

Other contacts: Frode Pleym in Tokyo: +81 803 206 6083Cindy Baxter in Amsterdam: +31 646 197 332