With protestors standing outside the Japanese courthouse calling Peter Bethune a terrorist, the judge inside gave the Sea Shepherd activist a two-year suspended sentence. Bethune was captain of the Ady Gil that was rammed and sunk by illegal Japanese whalers earlier this year. Bethune was arrested after he boarded the Japanese whaling ship Shonan Maru 2 to make a citizen’s arrest of its captain.
Peter Bethune has been in Japanese custody since the incident in February. He was charged with trespassing, vandalism, possession of a knife, obstructing business and assault. On July 7th, he pleaded guilty to all of the charges against him, except assault.
Bethune could have received up to 15 years in prison, but the judge handed down a two-year prison sentence, suspended for five years. Bethune was found guilty on all five charges against him, including assault for throwing stink bombs made of butyric acid-rancid butter.
The suspended sentence means that Bethune will not spend time in prison. In addition he is forbidden to return to Japan for the next five years. Bethune will be deported to his home country of New Zealand on July 9th.
While the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is pleased Peter Bethune will get to go home, they released a story called Whale Warrior “Captain Pete Bethune” Free to Return Home that explains the injustice of the arrest and trial.
Here are a couple of excerpts from that story:
“Captain Komura almost killed six Sea Shepherd volunteer crewmembers and did not respond to the Ady Gil’s mayday distress signal. Japanese authorities refused to cooperate in investigations and declined requests by Australian and New Zealand maritime authorities to question Captain Komura.”
“The verdict of the Japanese court was always to be guilty. Sea Shepherd was never under any illusion that Captain Bethune would be given a fair trial. In court, there was no discussion of the reason why Captain Bethune boarded the Shonan Maru #2, and Captain Komura was not called as a witness; in short, the court never allowed any evidence of the Ady Gil’s destruction to be heard.”
“Captain Bethune is a hero to the Save the Whales movement and he will be welcomed home to New Zealand as a national hero for having the courage to do what his government was fearful of doing—defending whales from the Japanese poachers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.“
Although the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society praised Bethune in their story, the organization has severed its ties with him for breaking their policies.
Commercial whaling was outlawed in 1986, but Japan continues to kill hundreds of whales each year under the guise of “scientific research.” Last month Japan was accused of bribing several countries to obtain a vote of support with the International Whaling Commission as they considered a plan to reinstate commercial whaling for Japan, Norway and Iceland on a limited basis.
The measure failed and commercial whale hunting remains illegal, worldwide. The anti-whalers plan to be in the waters to protect the whalers next season.
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