Two Greenpeace activists are facing up to 18 months jail time for their part in exposing corruption within the Japanese whaling programme.
The sentence, which would be the longest jail term for any Greenpeace activist in the organisation’s 40 year history, was demanded by the Aomori District Court Prosecutor during yesterday’s summing up of the trial of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki charged with trespass and theft.
Corroborating testimonies from whaling industry whistleblowers backing the activists’ allegations and contradictory testimony from prosecution witnesses have failed to prevent the severely disproportionate sentence being requested, says Greenpeace.
While investigating allegations of systemic corruption in Japan’s publicly-funded Southern Ocean whaling programme, Sato and Suzuki intercepted whale meat that whistleblowers claimed was destined for the black market, and used it as evidence to request an official investigation. This was dropped without reason by the authorities while Sato and Suzuki, now known as the Tokyo Two, were arrested. Their detention, interrogation and charges have been condemned by international human rights organisations (1), legal experts and politicians, including Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“We acted peacefully and only in the public interest – to gain evidence of embezzlement of whale meat paid for by the Japanese public,” stated Sato. “As a signatory to international human rights treaties, Japan must uphold our right to take such action and we trust the court will recognise this in its decision.”
“The actions of Junichi and Toru have been peaceful at all times and for the public good. It is deeply worrying that any jail term might be imposed,” said Greenpeace International executive Director Kumi Naidoo. “Human rights experts have considered this case to be politically motivated, and another example of a growing global trend of authorities using the law to silence inconvenient opposition.”
The demand for jail comes just as crucial talks are to begin at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Morocco. More than half a million messages of concern have already been sent to the Japanese Government since the arrest of the two men in June 2008.
“With new leadership taking power today we have an opportunity to wipe away two years of inaction by our leaders,” commented Suzuki. “New Prime Minister Naoto Kan needs to prove that he can do what Yukio Hatoyama could not, and prove Japan could be a world leader in defending the rights and importance of civil society.”
A verdict date is still to be confirmed.
Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.