Tokyo: An antiwhaling activist from New
Zealand charged with obstructing the activities of the
Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean pleaded
not guilty to injuring any crew member during his trial that
began at the Tokyo District Court.
The trial of 45-year-old Peter Bethune, former captain
of the antiwhaling vessel Ady Gil of the US based Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society, has been closely watched as the first
case to come before a Japanese court involving a member of the
group known for its campaign to disrupt Japanese whaling,
which Japan claims it does for scientific "research" purposes.
During the first court hearing of his trial, Bethune
said through an interpreter that he largely accepted four
charges against him, but not the fifth one of injuring a crew
member of the Japanese fleet`s security escort vessel, the
Shonan Maru No 2.
The four charges he admitted to are trespassing,
forcible obstruction of business, destruction of property and
violation of the weapons control law.
Bethune, who wore a black suit and sported a shaved
head, said he had good reasons for trespassing. Regarding the
alleged obstruction of business, he said there were additional
circumstances that he will discuss at a future hearing.
Prosecutors argued in their opening remarks that
Bethune trespassed on board the vessel to have a cameraman
film him for a documentary. They played to the court a video
recorded by the Japanese fleet that showed the defendant
throwing a glass bottle and roaring with delight.
Noting that there is powerful opposition in the
international community to the Japanese whaling program, the
defence countered in its remarks that Bethune did not intend
to harm the crew member.