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Anti-Whaling Activists Face Prosecution In Japan

Greenpeace challenges Japan to prosecute anti-whaling activists worldwide

Tokyo, Japan, 4 November 2008 - Ending the political prosecution of two Greenpeace activists in Japan will become the central focus of a global mass mobilisation campaign against the Japanese Government's whale hunt in the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary, Greenpeace announced today.

Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, known as the Tokyo Two, have been denied their liberty for 138 days, since exposing corruption within the annual so-called scientific research whaling programme last May. They will be put on trial early next year, and face up to 10 years in jail for intercepting whale meat stolen by crew from the whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru. (1)

As a consequence Greenpeace will not be sending a ship to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary this year. Instead it will focus all of its efforts in Japan in order to ensure that the whaling programme and not the Greenpeace activists, is on trial.

Just days after Greenpeace was instrumental in causing the whaling fleet's supply ship Oriental Bluebird- which carries fuel for the fleet and takes processed and boxed meat from the factory ship - to lose its Panamanian flag, potentially cutting this years' hunt in half (2), Greenpeace is calling on whale defenders worldwide to become co-defendants with the Tokyo Two.

To date, a quarter of a million people have called on Japan's prime minister to drop the charges and release the activists (3). To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December, and running through until the trial, Greenpeace plans to mobilise tens of thousands of people to declare themselves co-defendants with the Tokyo Two, to give evidence against the whaling programme and support Sato and Suzuki.

"Junichi and Toru's trial is politically motivated; if the Japanese government wants to make political prisoners out of people who oppose whaling then they are going to have to take a lot more prisoners," said Greenpeace International Whales Campaign Coordinator Sara Holden. "Anyone who wants to end whaling, from heads of state to high school students should declare themselves co-defendants in this case, and help us work towards making sure this trial delivers a damning judgment on whaling and not Junichi and Toru."

Greenpeace also plans to bring additional pressure upon governments who every year condemn the whale hunt, but take no real action. "If whale friendly countries had invested real political will and power in opposing whaling in the Southern Ocean it could have be ended years ago," said Holden. "There is still time to stop the whaling fleet from leaving port later this month. As a first step all whale friendly governments should follow Australia's example by appointing a Whale Envoy and despatching them to Japan."

"After many expeditions to defend the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary Greenpeace has saved hundreds of whales. We have placed ourselves between the harpoon and the whale. Our actions have taken the plight of the whales to the top of the political agenda," said Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan. "But, if we are to bring this hunt to an end, we have to bring change in Tokyo."

"We have been building opposition from within Japan, and it is clear from the extreme reaction by the authorities to silence our activists and threaten the closure of the Greenpeace Japan office operation in the country (4), that we have shaken the establishment. We will not cave in under pressure, but instead will re-direct it back into the heart of the whaling establishment."

Notes to Editors:

(1) Greenpeace investigation: Japan's stolen whale meat scandal, May 15 2008 - dossier available from: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/whale-meat-scandal-dossier

Sato and Suzuki were arrested on June 20th, and spent 26 days in custody before being charged. Bail conditions require that they request permission to be away form home for more than three days.

(2) It is estimated that the vessel, Oriental Bluebird, is responsible for taking around 50% of the whaling fleet's catch back to Japan. Japan has ratified an international treaty which seeks to end the practice of 'flag hopping' to evade environmental law. With the Bluebird now looking for a new flag after its owners de-registered her following a ruling in Panama to fine its owners for violating an environmental treaty, the government is duty-bound not to rely on the vessel's services for at least three years. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/japanese-whaling-ship-outlawed281008

(3) More than 250,000 Greenpeace supporters sent protest emails to the Japanese prime minister, asking him to release the activists. In addition, a joint statement of concern was issued to the prime minister by 35 international non-governmental organisations, which included Amnesty International, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Humane Society International. A motion to release the men was passed in the Australian parliament and questions raised in the UK parliament.

(4) In addition to the arrest of Sato and Suzuki, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is also investigating Greenpeace Japan, and has the power to shut the organisation down.

ENDS

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