Japanese court finds the New Zealander guilty of all five charges against him

Anti-whaling activist Pete Bethune has been handed a two-year prison sentence, suspended for five years, by a Tokyo court after boarding a Japanese whaling vessel in the Southern Ocean and attempting a citizen’s arrest on its captain.

He was found guilty of all five charges against him, including assault after Japanese whalers were hurt by rancid butter thrown at them by activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The ruling means Bethune, 45, will escape jail but will be deported from Japan back to his home country of New Zealand, and banned from Japan for five years.

Folllowing yesterday’s verdict, Bethune said: “I am very relieved and thankful at the decision from the Japanese court and immensely grateful to my legal team here in Japan. I am truly sorry for all the trouble and worry this has caused my family and am desperate to get back home to see them.

“All I did was to board the boat that I feel deliberately attacked and sunk my vessel. I wanted justice for the loss of my boat and the attempted murder of my crew.

“I still want justice, and I strongly urge the Australian and New Zealand Maritime Authorities to continue putting pressure on the Japanese whalers to cooperate with their investigations into the collision.”

Ady Gil

Bethune boarded the ship, the Shonan Maru No 2, on 15 February. As well as making a political statement, he planned to present the captain of the whaling vessel with a bill of $3m for the sinking of his boat, Ady Gil, following damaged sustained in a collision with the whaler in January.

Bethune was detained once he was discovered on the Shonan Maru No 2, and taken to Japan to stand trial for charges of trespassing, assault, vandalism, possession of a knife and obstructing business.

Top photo: Some 30 right-wing protesters gather as police officers stand guard before the court hands down ruling on New Zealand activist Peter Bethune. AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi