Antiwhaling activist pleads not guilty to injuring Japanese

Antiwhaling activist pleads not guilty to injuring Japanese 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.