Grauniad: Japan comes down hard on Greenpeace whaling activists


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
Hi Blog.  I haven’t really gotten into the whaling issue on this blog (my take in essence is that regardless of numbers it’s not a farmable species, so don’t treat it as one).  But let me bring up this article as an example of how Japan can treat activists it wants to make an example of:  the GOJ sics the NPA on them and lets them “prosecute” (or, rather, interrogate and incriminate) them to the fullest extent of the law.  Such as it is.  Have a read.  Courtesy of TK.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Greenpeace launches major anti-whaling campaign in Japan

Two activists who face years in prison say their arrests were politically motivated

  • The Manchester Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008 00.01 GMT
  • Greenpeace activist Junichi Sato 

    Greenpeace activist Junichi Sato holds a piece of whale meat during a news conference in Tokyo May 15, 2008 Photograph: Kyodo/ /Reuters

    Two Greenpeace activists who face years in prison for investigating corruption in Japan‘s whaling industry have condemned their arrests as politically motivated on the eve of an unprecedented campaign to end the country’s whale hunts.

    Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki were arrested in June, two months after intercepting 23kg of whale meat at a warehouse in northern Japan that they said had been stolen by crew members from the Japanese whaling fleet’s mother ship for sale on the black market.

    They are now waiting to stand trial early next year, and if convicted face up to 10 years in prison.

    “At the time I was arrested I wasn’t too concerned as I was focusing on our investigation,” Sato, 31, told the Guardian yesterday at the Tokyo offices of his legal team.

    “But if we are convicted, then of course I will be worried about my wife and child. It would also raise serious questions about Japan’s commitment to human rights. We have already been detained for 26 days, which is very unusual for someone facing first-time charges of theft.”

    The ferocity with which prosecutors have made their case against Sato and Suzuki has astonished Greenpeace officials and human rights activists.

    During their time in police custody, the men say they were strapped to chairs and interrogated for up to 12 hours a day. No lawyers were present and the interviews were not recorded.

    Under their bail terms they are not allowed to be in the same room and can only talk to fellow activists in the presence of their lawyers. One of the men says that he and his family were watched by plain-clothes police officers while dining out at a restaurant.

    In May, after a four-month undercover investigation dubbed Operation Silver Bullet, Greenpeace said it had evidence to prove that at least 23 Nisshin Maru crew members had smuggled more than 90 boxes of salted whale meat from the vessel, disguising its as “personal baggage”.

    The intercepted consignment, they said, was proof that the whaling crew was defrauding the Japanese taxpayer with the full knowledge of Kyodo Senpaku, which operates the fleet.

    Kyodo Senpaku, however, insisted that the packages were simply “gifts” for crewmen who had spent months at sea in freezing conditions.

    When Sato displayed the meat, worth up to 350,000 yen, at a press conference in June he was convinced he had delivered a decisive blow to Japan’s whaling industry, which receives at least 5 billion yen a year in government subsidies.

    Instead, he and Suzuki were arrested in early-morning raids on their homes on the same day that prosecutors decided not to pursue their embezzlement claims.

    In a separate interview yesterday, Suzuki recalled his ordeal at the hands of police in Aomori prefecture, northern Japan, where his alleged crime took place.

    He said: “They asked me the same questions over and over again and even compared me with the Aum Supreme Truth,” the doomsday cult that carried out a deadly gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

    “I was expecting the police to investigate our embezzlement allegations, but looking back I was being optimistic. I was so angry when I heard the case against the whalers had been dropped.”

    Suzuki, 41, whose wife is expecting their second child in May, responded by going on hunger strike for nine days and refusing to talk to his interrogators for four more. “By the end I could see that they were worried I might die,” he said.

    Sato describes himself as a “political prisoner”, the victim of authorities who he says routinely denounce Greenpeace and the more radical marine conservation group, Sea Shepherd, as terrorists.

    “By exaggerating the danger we pose they will get support from the Japanese public, who don’t know the truth about whaling but support so-called anti-terrorist measures,” he said.

    Senior Greenpeace officials now suspect the Tokyo metropolitan government, led by rightwing governor Shintaro Ishihara, will attempt to remove its non-profit status, effectively closing down its Japan operations.

    Both men support Greenpeace’s decision not to pursue Japan’s whaling fleet across the freezing waters of the Southern ocean this year as it attempts to cull around 1,000 whales in the name of scientific research.

    “We need international pressure, but that’s not enough,” Sato said. “We also need people inside Japan to speak out against whaling.

    “The media here doesn’t report the truth, so the Japanese people have no idea about the negative impact it’s having on our diplomatic relations with countries like Australia and New Zealand.”

    Japan is permitted to catch whales for “lethal research” into their breeding, migratory and other habits, thanks to a contentious provision in the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on commercial whaling.

    During its recent scientific hunt, which ended in April, Japan’s fleet had hoped to catch 850 minke whales but returned with only 551 after being frustrated by activists from Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd.

    Greenpeace’s new campaign comes as pressure mounts on Japan to drop the charges against Suzuki and Sato.

    Amnesty International has condemned the arrests, the pair’s case has been raised in the House of Commons and almost 300,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that the charges against them be dropped.

    Today, senior Greenpeace officials will present a protest letter to Taro Aso, the Japanese prime minister, before protesting in front of parliament. In the coming days demonstrations will be held outside Japanese embassies in 20 countries.

    Sato and Suzuki are forbidden from playing any part in the protests, but despite the growing uncertainty about their future, they are unrepentant.

    “Since my arrest I have not lied once about what I did,” Suzuki said. “But the whalers have had to make up one story after another. Their lies will come back to haunt them soon.”


    15 comments on “Grauniad: Japan comes down hard on Greenpeace whaling activists

    • The comments regarding Ishihara, Tokyo’s racist mayor, are interesting; being dangerously right-wing, I suspect he views whaling sa quintessentially Japanese, and so any Japanese who oppose it are traitors. Hence his ardour in persuing them; he still considers there to be such a thing as a quale of Yamatoness. The sooner fascist government is gone, the better.

    • Shades of the Thought Police and Peace Preservation Law! Seriously. Hope these guys hang tough and come out OK.

      At the same time, the irresponsible behavior of the pregnant wife indicates these guys may be loons. I hope not; this kind of courageous action is what Japan desperately needs if it is ever to develop a mature civil society.

      What’s weird is the statement that Ishihara’s grandstanding could “effectively close down” Greenpeace’s operations. Believe it or not, there are plenty of places to operate an NPO in Japan apart from Tokyo. Or am I missing something?

      What is not surprising at all is the behavior of the police. To challenge one of the government’s core, defining “Nipponjinron” propaganda entities by exposing its predictable corruption is indeed equivalent to the subway attacks (until which Aum was just fine, since it had made friends in the media and police). After all, the current order is the only metaphysical alternative to Chaos, right?

    • Mark in Yayoi says:

      Shiro, what did Suzuki’s wife do that was unusual? It was her husband, the prisoner, who went on the hunger strike.

    • I now many of you do not agree with Japan’s whaling culture, and I am all for free speech and protesting. The one thing I can’t agree with are people physically attacking other people by throwing rocks, acid, and whatnot in the name of justice. Add to that ramming head on into another boat or falsely testifying that the Japanese navy shot at you, and you can only be called a terrorist.

      — Were these two people arrested for that?

    • >– Were these two people arrested for that?

      I’m sorry, I was referring to the SeaShepard not these two guys.

      — We’re talking about these two guys. If you’d like to expand beyond them please link the subject to the topic at hand. Thanks.

    • I would be very skeptical about the accuracy or impartiality of an investigation carried out by the Sea Shepards. Even so, IF they discovered illegality, the correct response would have been to notify the police, or whatever agency would be responsible.

      If they were after publicity and/or public sympathy, they should have documented the whole procedure and showed the public what was happening. Taking the meat from the warehouse was a cheap publicity stunt, nothing more. If the guys who took it are convicted, too bad.

      The Sea Shepard group are a nasty bunch in general, and dont deserve anything but contempt.

    • You guys need to get better informed about the Sea Shepherd. They DO NOT commit violence against other people, only against inanimate objects, and only when those objects are used to ILLEGALLY slaughter marine life. In 30+ years of activism, no one has ever been killed by a Sea Shepherd campaign.

      The “acid” they thrown on ship decks is basically like a form of butter, which makes the decks too slippery to operate harpoons.

      Next, Paul Watson was indeed shot at in last year’s campaign in the southern oceans. He produced the bullet and his bullet-proof vest and gave them to the Australian federal police, who did nothing about it.

      “Eco-terrorist” is a term that should apply to the corporations that are taking the planet’s resources without mercy, for their own profit, with no concern for those resources, and especially no concern for you and I.

      The Sea Shepherds are, in fact, eco-warriors. Warrior is another term it would be good for you to get a deeper understanding of. A warrior in any society is deserved of respect, not contempt. These folks are fighting for our survival. I encourage you to read more widely and keep your minds open.

    • >Susan

      I have kept up on the latest Sea Shepherd news in both Japan and Australia. That group may “only” be ramming their boat into another because it’s used to catch whales, but there are people on that boat who might get hurt. That’s like saying you only ran into another car because it was speeding. What are you going to do if the people in that car die as a result? Chalk it up as an unfortunate accident?

      Paul Wilson accused the Japanese of shooting at him. I find that hard to believe for so many reasons, namely because the bullet he produced wasn’t even standard JSDF. More likely Austalian.

      I suggest you look into more effective ways of protesting that are non-violent in nature. Sea Shepherd shows more respect for animals that for human beings. “Warrior”? By your definition you’d respect anyone who fought for what they believed in, no matter how irrational or potentially harmful.

      — Alright, before this debate goes any further, I think it’s time for Susan and Jeffrey to pony up some links for their assertions. If not, I’m going to have to delete both of your comments.

    • Mark in Yayoi,

      Thanks for the correction; I must have been so overwhelmed with righteous ire that I misread. Apologies.

    • D.B.Cooper says:

      Human rights make whale meat hard to swallow

      BBC News Richard Black | 15:48 UK time, Thursday, 9 April 2009

      When two men go uninvited into a warehouse and remove a box of something that doesn’t belong to them, what kind of offence has been committed, and by whom?

      Do they stand accused of simple theft? Or does the judicial system that charges and tries them stand accused of breaching fundamental tenets of international human rights law?

      This might seem like a rather abstruse topic for an environmental blog; but it’s a question that is central to a case that’s likely to play out for real in a Japanese courtroom soon, perhaps within the next six months…

    • I agree that it is ridiculous for the government to sponsor whaling.

      Instead, it should be financed privately, just like any other resource industry. Seafood is a great, renewable form of nutrition!

      — Not all that renewable the way people are fishing now. And whaling certainly wasn’t renewable the way whales were nearly hunted to extinction under private means.


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>