Ady Gil captain Pete Bethune is given a two year suspended sentence

A whaling activist has walked free from the Japanese courts after he was charged for illegally boarding a whaling vessel in the Antarctic.

Captain Pete Bethune, an ex member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, was given a suspended two year sentence after admitting charges of trespassing, vandalism, possession of a knife and obstructing business.

He denied a fifth charge of throwing stink bombs made of butyric acid – rancid butter – at whalers but he was also found guilty of assault.

It is not expected that he will serve any jail time and he faces deportation to his native New Zealand on 9 July 2010.

The Sea Shepherd group stumped up $500,000 for his legal defense despite cutting ties with the captain for carrying a bow and arrow.

“Captain Bethune is a hero to the Save the Whales movement. He exposed the brutality and illegality of the Japanese whaling fleet to the world,” said a spokesperson.

“When you’re willing to risk your life to save the whales, five months as a Japanese prisoner is a good trade-off for the lives saved.”

Bethune was the captain of the Ady Gil (pictured), a high-powered speedboat split in two after it was rammed by the Japanese vessel the Shanan Maru 2 in January 2010.

In his defense Bethune argued that he had boarded the boat to make a citizen’s arrest of the captain but was instead himself detained and taken to Japan to face charges.