Video: Whaling on trial - the story of the Toyko Two
There has been an international ban on commercial whaling for over 20 years now. Yet throughout, the Japanese government has continued to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean – supposedly a whale sanctuary – under the guise of conducting 'scientific research'. But despite killing thousands of whales since the ban began, they've made no useful scientific discoveries.
In early 2008 Greenpeace received a tip off from an ex-crew member on the whaling ships that further undermined the Japanese government's claims to be running a scientific programme. He told us that once the whaling ships returned to Japan after the hunt, boxes of prime whale meat were stolen by whaling industry staff and then sold on for personal profit.
|Slideshow: the Tokyo Two story - manga style|
So Greenpeace launched a four month investigation into these allegations of ‘embezzlement’. In May 2008, after the Japanese whaling fleet factory ship Nisshin Maru docked after its most recent hunt, activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki were able to intercept one of these boxes. Labeled on the outside as 'cardboard' and addressed to the private home of a whaling fleet staff member, inside it actually contained 23.5 kg of prime whale meat cuts, worth between 100,000 yen (US$1,000) and 300,000 yen (US$3,000).
Shortly afterwards Greenpeace held a press conference to present their findings, and called for an official investigation into how this was allowed to happen.
The District Prosecutor initially agreed to investigate but then, suddenly on June 20th, the case was dropped. That same day over 40 police raided our Tokyo office - seizing mobile phones, documents and computers. They also raided the homes of four staff members. Junichi and Toru were arrested and subjected to a month of daily interrogation sessions – each lasting up to 8 hours. After an international outcry they were finally released on bail on 15th July.
|Slideshow: support for the Tokyo 2 around the world|
Sometime in late summer 2009 the Tokyo Two, as they've since become known, will finally stand trial. They are charged with theft of whale meat and trespass – charges that are so culturally sensitive in Japan that they can lead to up to 10 years in jail. Meanwhile Greenpeace faces the threat of its operations in Japan being closed down.
The prosecution of these two activists and harassment of Greenpeace for exposing embezzlement is of grave concern. It raises questions about the Japanese government's commitment to democracy, and echoes concerns raised by the UN Human Rights Commission about 'unreasonable restrictions placed on freedom of expression' in the country.
Amnesty International has denounced the prosecution as politically motivated and half a million people worldwide have already written to the Japanese Prime minister to demand justice for Junichi and Toru.
Greenpeace offices around the world are working hard to support the Tokyo Two in many ways – including organising solidarity events at Japanese embassies.
We are urging embassy staff to ask the Japanese government to drop charges against Junichi and Toru, and instead prosecute the real criminals. We are also urging them to finally put an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary.
We urgently need to get the message across to the Japanese people that Junichi and Toru's actions in taking the whale meat to expose a crime are honourable and backed by millions around the world.
Add your voice to the hundreds of thousands of others calling for justice for the Tokyo Two by writing to the Japanese ambassador to the UK and demanding justice for Junichi and Toru.
Once you've done that then you can also help by going to our international website and signing the international petition in support of the Tokyo Two.