Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, two Greenpeace activists known as the Tokyo Two, exposed widespread corruption in Japan's whaling programme, yet in return, they have been handed a one year suspended prison sentence.
However, despite the harsh punishment the two anti-whaling activists stood in court as heroes today, having successfully put whaling on trial, both in court, and in Japan's national media.
Junichi had this to say in response to the verdict:
"While the court acknowledged that there were questionable practices in the whaling industry, it did not recognise the right to expose these, as is guaranteed under international law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on which our defence was based, supersedes domestic criminal law, but the judgment did not properly take this into account."
There will be an appeal for what is a totally unjust, politically motivated sentence. Junichi and Toru have taken great personal risks to investigate and expose embezzlement at the heart of Japan's tax-funded whaling industry, intercepting one of numerous boxes of whale meat embezzled from the whaling programme as evidence. These boxes were taken for private use by the crew of the Nisshin Maru in violation of the whaling programme's regulations, and this amounts to a misuse of public funds.
However, instead of investigating and arresting those behind the whale meat embezzlement scandal, Junichi and Toru were detained arbitrarily, forced to live under onerous bail conditions and then put on trial. After more than two years of political prosecution, the court has convicted them of theft and trespass, while the criminals behind the whale meat embezzlement walk free.
This conviction is bad news for the entire political culture in Japan, not least the role of organisations like Greenpeace in society; there's little doubt that the ruling signifies a major step backwards for the country's aim of gaining international reliability. The conviction is also part of a disturbing trend which has seen the authorities meeting peaceful and civil dissent with harsh and disproportionately severe punishments, narrowing the democratic space and discouraging people from speaking out.
Japan has already drawn criticism from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for its treatment of Junichi and Toru, and as Professor Dirk Voorhoof, an international law expert and defence witness in the case, said: "This conviction is very likely to earn Japan more criticism for its failure to respect its obligations under international human rights law."
Junichi and Toru are not alone in facing this verdict. Vigils are being held at Japanese embassies around the world and hundreds of thousands of people have already signed our petition calling for justice. The Toyo Two's case has already been taken up by Amnesty International, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and by celebrities like Bryan Adams and Benicio Del Torro.
Over the course of the trial, a lot has happened to shift public perceptions in Japan. Industry whistleblowers have continued to speak with Japanese media about corruption and wrongdoing in the whaling industry, interest in the story keeps growing, and in the last fortnight articles in major newspapers such as Tokyo Shimbun and Kyodo have covered the issue.
Japanese journalists are also not just increasingly interested in what's going on in the tax-funded whaling programme, but in what the Tokyo Two trial has to say on the question of freedom of expression and the rights of organisations like Greenpeace in their country.
We're standing with Junichi and Toru all the way and will make sure as many people as possible hear their story - and the positive impact their brave action is having.