Greenpeace pair found guilty of whale meat theft

It is a battle that has played out for years on the oceans; an annual game of cat and mouse between Japanese whalers and the environmentalists trying to disrupt their hunting season.

Yesterday, the latest round of the hard-fought struggle was played out in a Japanese courtroom where two Greenpeace activists were convicted for their part in trying to expose what they said was large-scale corruption in the country's whaling programme. The men – known as the "Tokyo Two"– were given suspended jail terms for taking a box of whale meat they said was being sold on the black market.

The convictions for trespass and theft were the latest sign of a backlash against the anti-whaling movement in Japan. A survey this week revealed that discounted whale meat is back on the menu at thousands of Japanese schools as stocks pile up around the country. Whale was served at least once last year at 5,355 primary and secondary schools – about 18 per cent of the 30,000 that offer lunches in Japan.

The two men, Junichi Sato, 33, and Toru Suzuki, 43, were arrested in 2008 after they took the 23kg box of meat, one of 47 allegedly sent by crew members aboard the whaling ship the Nisshin Maru to private addresses. According to Greenpeace, whalers aboard the ship have long had the right to choice cuts – worth hundreds of pounds – from the government-subsidised catch, which they sell on.

The two men called their one-year jail terms, suspended for three years, "disproportionate and unjust" after they were announced yesterday in Aomori, northern Japan. "It is saying that Japanese people don't have the right to expose corruption, which is guaranteed under international law," said Sato. "This case should have been about misuse of taxpayers' money and the rights of NGOs to investigate official wrongdoing." Greenpeace took the allegations to journalists before handing the meat to police in May 2008 and demanding an investigation. The authorities instead launched a ferocious campaign against the two men that culminated in their arrest and detention without lawyers for 26 days. During their trial, the pair admitted they took the meat, arguing it was in the public interest. But the three judges ruled yesterday that while there were "questionable" activities aboard the Nisshin Maru, that did not justify breaking the law.

The verdict follows the deportation in July of the New Zealand anti-whaling activist Peter Bethune, a member of the direct action group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Bethune was sentenced to two years, suspended for five, for assaulting a Japanese whaler during violent clashes in the Southern Ocean.

Another anti-whaler, Ric O'Barry, has been warned to stay away from Taiji village, the scene of a bloody annual dolphin hunt in southern Japan, which began this month. Mr O'Barry said he would not attend the hunt, but added that activists would increase their activities against whaling ahead of a November visit to Japan by US President Barack Obama.

But the former dolphin trainer, who arrived in Tokyo last week with a petition of 1.7 million signatures demanding the dolphin cull be stopped, admitted mounting global pressure on Japan may be having the opposite effect and persuading pro-whalers to dig their heels in. "It may be time to back off. That's one of the reasons I'm not there [in Taiji] this year. These hunts will only end when Japanese people get involved in this issue."

Greg McNevin, a Greenpeace spokesman, said the conviction of Suzuki and Sato would have a major impact on grassroots campaigns. "It will have a chilling effect on activists exposing wrongdoing in Japan," he said.

Japan's Fisheries Agency welcomed the verdict. "The two Greenpeace activists broke the law so they deserved their sentence," said a spokesman.

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

CRM Developer (MS Dynamics 2011/2013, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: CRM MS Dynamic...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution