Filed under: Defending our Oceans | Tags: human rights, japan, tokyo 2, whales, Whaling
For all the Tokyo Two fans – this is a recent picture of Junichi of the Tokyo Two holding up a censored whaling document released by the Japanese government. As you can see, he’s looking well, and is in this photograph showing off the extent of the censorship by by Japan’s government in its desperation to cover up the whale meat scandal. The document is apparently a sales report of minke whale from the Japanese government’s whaling programme in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. You’d wonder what they’ve got to hide, eh?
It’s fast heading for a year now since I sat in a press briefing in Tokyo, Japan, while fellow Greenpeace activist Junichi Sato stood at the top of the room, showing a box of whale meat to the media that proved that a government-funded whaling operation was being embezzled by the crew of the whaling ships. It’s been an intense 10 months since then – Junichi and fellow activist Toru Suzuki were arrested and held for 26 days without charge, the Greenpeace Japan office was raided by police, and the long wait for justice began.
Junichi and Toru are ostensibly facing trial for theft – but in reality they’re being prosecuted because they stood up to the Japanese government and the whaling industry, by exposing widespread embezzlment within the taxpayer-funded whaling programme.
The prosecutor has pushed for the exclusion of any testimony about the whale meat scandal, but today, at a second pre-trial hearing in the city of Aomori, Junichi and Toru’s defence counsel, Yuichi Kaido argued that the actions of the two activists can’t be divorced from their true intention: to expose the embezzlement. As a result, te judge has ruled that the prosecutor must justify exluding the evidence.
As Mr Kaido said afterwards, “the Court needs more time to discuss whether or not to include the embezzlement issue, and I find hope in their concern… we will strongly defend the right for concerned citizens to investigate wrongdoing in public enterprises, doing their duty as ‘watchdogs’ of democracy.”
As part of the defence, three independent, international experts have each submitted key testimonies to the Japanese court. Human rights expert, Professor saying that sanctioning the Tokyo Two could have “a serious chilling effect on others who report on embezzlement or other wrongdoing”, and that a criminal conviction of the two would amount to a “violation of the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be properly informed about the whale meat embezzlement in Japan.”
Prof. dr. Dirk Voorhoof witness statement »
Prof. William Schabas:
Prof. William Schabas witness statement »
Meanwhile, Greenpeace has also launched an appeal against Japanese government censorship – documents about the whaling operation that we obtained through a a 2008 Freedom of Information request were so heavily blacked out that it puts us in mind of a recent article in The Onion. The Fisheries Agency of Japan had blacked out most of the documents, thereby breaching its own promise of transparency and accountability.
Whale Meat Scandal Part Two: The Cover Up »
More about the Tokyo Two »
For the last week, around the world, activists around the world have been doing wonderful work – delivering messages and holding vigils outside Japanese embassies:
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