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article imageSea Shepard captain goes on trail in Japan

By Michael Bearak     May 27, 2010 in Crime
A captain for the environmental group, Sea Shepard, is standing trial in Japan and if convicted could face up to 15 years in prison.
Peter Bethune, who was the Captain of the Addy Gil that collided with the Japanese whaling ship the Shonan Maru 2 is standing trial in Tokyo, Japan which began Thursday afternoon.
The head judge read the charges against Bethune which included: trespassing, damage to property, assault, forcible obstruction of official business and possession of an illegal knife.
After the sinking of the Addy Gil, Bethune, who is from New Zeland, boarded the Shonan Maru 2 in the subsequent weeks, hence the charge of trespassing. Bethune's goal was to make a citizen's arrest once boarding the boat. After which time Bethune was arrested and taken into custody.
On Thursday in court Peter Bethune admitted to all the charges, except the assault charge, "I admit that I boarded the Shonan Maru, but I believe that I have good reason to do so. I admit that I fired the butyric acid, but there were additional circumstances that we will discuss in court."
Japanese prosecutors have stated that the butyric acid burned two sailors. Sea Shepard denies the burning or the crew members stating that butyric acid is harmless, even though it is found in vomit and rancid butter.
This is the first time that a Sea Shepard activist has been arrested and tried in a Japanese court. Sea Shepard and Japan have had an on going battle concerning Japan's annual whale expeditions. Japan says the expeditions are for research and study. This allows them to continue their hunts because that is the loophole in the world-wide moratorium against whaling. Sea Shepard says the reasoning for the whale expeditions is not for since but rather for food in that the whale meat is sold in markets and served in restaurants throughout Japan.
Dan Harris the attorney for Sea Shepard is in Japan, but not serving as Bethune's council in this case. Harris was quoted as saying, "This whole trial has been brought about for political reasons, far more than criminal reasons. If you look at what Peter Bethune did, he didn't do anything," Harris said. "He climbed aboard a Japanese ship. Nobody was in any danger. No one was under any threat. No one was afraid. For Japan to act like it's enforcing a criminal law is a little disingenuous, when you look at what Pete Bethune did."
Japan is maintaining the position that when their laws are broken they will prosecute. Bethune is expected to testify on Monday, before the trial wraps up, and a decision is expected on June 10th.
More about Sea shepard, Addy gil, Whaling, Japanese whaling
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