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Call For Release Of Japanese Whaling Activists

Greenpeace Calls For Release Of Japanese Whaling Activists

Monday, June 30, 2008: Responding to the ongoing detainment of Greenpeace Japan activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, Greenpeace New Zealand today took its concerns to the Japanese embassy in Wellington.

Greenpeace delivered a crate containing over 1,300 letters to the Japanese Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, and Foreign Minister, Masahiko Koumura, calling for the immediate release of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki - the two activists at the centre of the "stolen whale meat scandal" who are currently being held without charge by Japanese authorities.

Over 170,000 people from around the world have now sent protest letters demanding the release of the unjustly incarcerated duo, who were arrested on June 20 for the alleged theft of a box of whale meat.

Following a four-month undercover investigation, Greenpeace Japan revealed evidence of an embezzlement ring involving crew members on board the whaling factory ship, Nisshin Maru. Crew members were openly taking the best cuts of whale meat during the so-called scientific hunt, smuggling it ashore disguised as personal luggage and then passing it to traders for illegal sales.

Working from information given by former and current Kyodo Senpaku (1) employees , Greenpeace gathered significant evidence to support the embezzlement charge, including a box containing 23.5kg of salted 'prime' whale meat, worth up to US$3,000.

The box was intercepted in transit and its contents documented before being handed over to Japan's public prosecutor as evidence. However, despite cooperating with authorities right from the start and handing over the box as part of the case, Sato and Suzuki have been arrested under allegations of theft, while the public prosecutor has dismissed the case against Kyodo Senpaku.

During the arrest Japanese 40 police raided Greenpeace's Tokyo office, confiscating a computer server, mobile phones, and financial records. Staff member's homes were also raided.

"Clearly Greenpeace Japan has touched a nerve with the exposure of wide scale corruption at the heart of Japan's whaling industry, and the authorities response is to shoot the messenger rather than investigating the real crime," said Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Bunny McDiarmid. "Considering the arrests also happened on the eve of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Chile, this situation smacks of politics and intimidation."

It is an essential principle of democracy that those who act to expose wrongdoing in government should not be subject to intimidation or harassment, no matter how powerful the forces they oppose.

"Junichi and Toru have been cooperating with police since the very start and took great personal risk in exposing this crime. They should not be punished for that," said McDiarmid.

Greenpeace is calling for the release of Sato and Toru, an investigation into the use of taxpayer money for private gain, and for an end to whaling in the internationally designated Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

~

Notes:

(1) Kyodo Senpaku, the company that operates the whaling ships.

The "Stolen Japanese Whale Meat Scandal" dossier is available to download in English and Japanese at:

http://www.greenpeace.org/whale-meat-scandal

Images from today's event in Wellington are available at:

http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/media/


ENDS

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