A Fair Trial for the “Tokyo Two”
by Alison Kole
June 1, 2010
Next Tuesday June 8th marks a pivotal point in the trial of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, two activists on trial for exposing an embezzlement scandal in the Japanese whaling program. Junichi and Toru, known as the Tokyo Two (T2), will give their closing arguments in what will be their final day in court before the judges retire to consider their verdict. It will be over two years since the two were arrested and subject to the drawn out judicial process, which has seen all three judges change – two of which were rotated only recently – and what appear to be ongoing cover-ups by the authorities. The trial has become one which is not just about corruption within the whaling industry, but also human rights and freedom of expression in Japan, with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention weighing in to say that the authorities’ treatment of the T2 has violated their human rights.
A recent CNN TV story describes the issue of whaling as a conflict between activists and the whalers. The T2 case shows a different battle happening within the country, one where those in authority deny their citizens the right to investigate, the right to informed discourse, rights that Japan is obligated to uphold based on their international agreements. And soon, whaling also faces a pivotal moment with an upcoming International Whaling Commission meeting the Japanese delegation brings the same duplicity to the proceedings that the Tokyo government brings to the trial.
Artist sketch L-R: Junichi Sato, Defense Council Member, and Toru Suzuki. Greenpeace/Molly Intersimone
While the true nature of the whaling industry has been highlighted by the ongoing T2 case the future of whaling will also come under scrutiny at the next IWC meeting. Greenpeace wants a fair trial for its activists, and positive change at the IWC that will see the commission modernized into a body for the conservation and protection of whales, not whaling. Japan has an opportunity at the IWC and in the T2 case to prove that it is the first world democracy and environmental leader it wants to be.
Over 400,000 people around the world have signed on to support Junichi and Toru, and with next week’s closing arguments we will see if the court has been paying attention. Please sign the petition for the T2 and tell the IWC delegation to save the whales.