Greenpeace activists demand justice for environmentalists jailed in Japan

Manila, 30 June 2008–Greenpeace activists today demonstrated at the Japanese Embassy in Manila to protest the unnecessary and unjust detention of two Japanese environmentalists who have uncovered a major scandal in what Japan calls its ‘Scientific Whaling Program.’

Bearing a banner with the words “Justice for Whales, Justice for Greenpeace,” origami whales, and a petition signed by more than 170,000 concerned individuals from around the world, the Filipino activists delivered a letter to Ambassador Makoto Katsura and presented him with a dossier of the results of a Greenpeace investigation, which if pursued, can implicate government officials and whaling fleet operators in long-standing corrupt practices in Japan’s purported scientific whaling research (1).

“This demonstration in Manila is the latest in a series of global protests calling for justice for the Greenpeace activists who are now being unjustly detained in Tokyo. This is also a call for justice for the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary where each year more than a hundred whales are killed in the name of science,” said Greenpeace campaign manager Beau Baconguis.

Since last week, Greenpeace has been staging peaceful protests at Japanese embassies around the world. In some countries vigils will be established with the activists committed to remaining outside the embassies until Junichi Sato, 31, and Toru Suzuki, 41, are charged or set free. In addition, the so far more than 170,000 emails of protest from around the world have been sent to the Japanese Government calling for the immediate release of the activists.

The two Japanese activists were arrested on June 20 after intercepting a delivery of illegal whale meat misdeclared as cardboard. In principle they can be held for 23 days without charge under Japanese law. The next hearing on whether to release them or extend the period of detention will take place on July 1.

Greenpeace believes that the response by the Japanese authorities is excessive, unjust and politically motivated. Both Sato and Suzuki provided statements to the police about their activities when they exposed the whale meat embezzlement ring within the Japanese whaling fleet. They offered their full cooperation for any investigation. Yet, they are now being held without charge and without bail.

“Rather than trying to silence those who point out corruption, the police should be investigating the government officials, whaling fleet operators and staff who smuggle whale meat from the so-called scientific program funded by Japanese taxpayers and sell it for profit. This and the ongoing whaling operation in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is where the forces of justice should be focused,” said Baconguis.

Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organization that acts to change attitudes and behavior, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.