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Prosecutors seek two-year prison term for anti-whaling activist who boarded Japanese ship

Bethune TOKYO — Prosecutors demanded a two-year prison sentence Thursday for an activist who boarded a Japanese vessel in the Antarctic Ocean to try to prevent it from hunting whales.

New Zealander Peter Bethune climbed onto the Shonan Maru 2 from a Jet Ski in February in what he said was an attempt to confront the ship's captain over the sinking of a protest vessel the previous month.

Prosecutors say Bethune threw glass bottles containing rotten butter at the harpoon boat, including one that broke and left three Japanese crew members with chemical burns. He was apprehended when the ship returned to Tokyo in March.

Bethune, 45, is charged with trespassing, vandalism, possession of a knife, obstructing business and assault. He pleaded guilty to all but the assault charge when his trial started last month.

At Tokyo District Court on Thursday, prosecutors said there was a "clear link" between his hurling of the bottles and the injuries, and that he must have been aware that a bottle might hit a crew member.

Prosecutors also said Bethune "actively took part and carried out actual attacks" as part of a violent campaign against Japanese whaling by Sea Shepherd, the U.S.-based conservation group to which he once belonged.

Bethune's lawyers sought lenience and a suspended prison term, saying Thursday that he participated in protests "purely out of his sense of justice."

Thursday's session wraps up the proceedings ahead of a ruling expected on July 7.

During earlier trial sessions, Bethune said he just wanted to confront the ship's captain and hand him a $3- million bill for the destruction of a protest ship that sank during a collision in January. He denied any intention to hurt anyone.

In his tearful closing statement, Bethune apologized for the trouble but said he never intended to hurt anyone.

"I took action because I wanted to stop Japan's illegal whaling," Bethune said, as he read his statement in Japanese. "But I feel sorry for having caused trouble to crew members."

"I am not apologizing because I am trying to lessen the charges," he said with his voice trembling, choked with tears. "I did not intend to injure the crew members of Shonan Maru."

Sea Shepherd said it expelled Bethune because he violated its policies against carrying weapons. The group said he had a bow and arrows with him while he was aboard the Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil, the one that was destroyed, although he never used them and the group believes he never intended to use them.

The bow and the arrows were never discussed during Bethune's trial.

In his court appearances last month, Bethune said he will likely no longer continue his anti-whaling protests.

The Sea Shepherd group has been protesting Japan's government-backed research whaling program for years, often engaging in scuffles with Japanese whalers.

Japan joins Norway and Iceland in hunting whales under exceptions to a 1986 moratorium by the International Whaling Commission. Japan says it hunts for scientific research and that its hunts are legitimate under the IWC exceptions, but opponents call it a cover for commercial whaling. Japan's whaling program also involves large-scale expeditions down to the Antarctic, while other whaling countries mostly stay along their coasts.

Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson said in a statement Wednesday that his group will continue to support Bethune through his court battle in Japan. He denied Japanese prosecutors' allegations that he had ordered Bethune to climb onto the Japanese whaling vessel.

About 30 Japanese rightists staged a rally outside the court, shouting through a loudspeaker and denouncing Bethune and Sea Shepherd. They confronted Garry Thomason, Bethune's fellow activist, prompting Japanese police to pull him away for protection. Nobody was injured or arrested.

Taima, SeaWorld Orlando orca, dies giving birth to stillborn calf fathered by Tilikum
Alaska sues federal government over beluga whale population's endangered listing

-- Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press

Photo: Protesters hold placards and shout slogans to show their opposition to the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd outside Tokyo district court, where Peter Bethune's trial took place on June 10. Credit: Issei Kato / Reuters

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Why do writers / journalists keep skewing the information? Peter Bethune threw a chemical compound called Butyric Acid with unkown concentration, NOT RANCID BUTTER. If he actually threw a stick of Rancid Butter, he would not have been charged with assult. PLEASE! DO NOT SKEW INFORMATION to make your point. I keep seeing this on left-wing / so-called "pro-environmental" news articles. The only reason why the concentration of Butyric Acid used by SS is unknown is because Pete Bethune keep saying "no comment" in the trial when asked about it. But, it is suspected that SS uses pure Butyric Acid, which is highly corrosive and toxic, based on the corrosion observed on whaling ship's deck.) It's one thing to blame Japan for illegal whaling, but completely unethical to change the facts to fit your story and arguments.


The incident discussed during Pete Bethune's trial was a clear case of perjury on the part of the whalers. The date of the "injuries" was February 11th, 2010. It is true that Pete Bethune launched stink bombs of butyric acid at the whaling ship Shonan Maru 2. However, the whalers injuries were not caused by exposure to anything thrown or launched by the Sea Shepherd group.

Video evidence of the incident clearly shows the whalers who reported being injured. They're shown wearing tanks on their backs with spray nozzles in hand. Each whaler fires a burst of an unknown substance (which they later claimed to be water) off the side of the moving ship in the direction of the activists and their cameras. IMMEDIATELY after they spray this unknown substance, the whalers begin rubbing their faces in distress and they hurry off. The whalers claimed they had instant chemical burns to their faces including blistering and painful reddened eyes which could not be opened. The description of the wounds (which apparently completely healed in a matter of days) are consistent with direct exposure to OC (pepper spray).

A study of the toxicity of butyric acid on human skin conducted in controlled experiments showed "Butyric acid can act as a mild skin irritant in humans ... Application to intact human skin elicits a moderate burning sensation only after 52 min, and erythema (redness of the skin) is hardly noticeable. Slight epidermal scaling may follow within 24 hr." [Bingham, E.; Cohrssen, B.; Powell, C.H.; Patty's Toxicology Volumes 1-9 5th ed. John Wiley & Sons. New York, N.Y. (2001)., p. 5:710]

In other words, the actual results of exposure to butyric acid in scientific experiments on human skin do NOT match the immediate burns reported by the whalers.

Many arguing on behalf of the whalers and against Sea Shepherd like to cite the MSDS for butyric acid which looks quite intimidating. However, the MSDS reports for "acute" exposure of citric acid (orange juice) and phosphoric acid (coca cola) are no less scary looking. These claims of "dangerous acid" are made based on assumptions with no physical evidence such as the actual contents of any bottle thrown by Sea Shepherd. They have absolutely no idea how much or what concentration of any chemical is actually in those bottles. Needless to say, Sea Shepherd volunteers have been exposed to the stuff on many occasions and reported no injuries as a result.

What's clear, according to the video evidence and the scientific information about butyric acid exposure, is that the whalers gassed themselves with a riot control agent and lied about it in court. Pete Bethune is innocent of any charges of causing burns and clearly never intended to cause bodily harm. His throws were not aimed at any people (and shown at trial to have landed many meters away from the whalers).

The Japanese government is financially and politically invested in the whaling industry. The crew of the Shonan Maru 2, the same agents of the government that nearly killed Bethune in the Ady Gil collision, have lied in order to convict a man for interfering with whaling. The court has proceeded with a tribunal of judges rather than the one judge that would normally preside over a case with such charges. The Japanese Coast Guard rallied the public at a "demonstration" timed to coincide with the trial and advertised the display of anti-pirate intervention with Bethune's image. The police escorted protesters supporting Bethune away from the court while allowing violent nationalists to attack foreign journalists. Coincidentally, on the day Bethune took the stand, these nationalists were allowed into the court room to scream at Pete.

Like the Tokyo Two (Japanese activists jailed for attempting to expose the illegal actions of whalers), Pete Bethune has become a political prisoner of the Japanese government. This was not a fair trial.

Poor Pete. He thought it was cool to throw acid at people, ram ships, fire chemically tipped arrows, shine weapons-grade lasers to blind people, and board foreign vessels on the high seas to demand a ransom. And then he cries when he's held to account?

Now he's going to the slammer, abandoned by his wife, abandoned by his government, abandoned by his Sea Shepherd thug partners in crime.

What a schmuck.

At least he'll have plenty of time to come to his senses in the clink. While Paul Watson basks in his publicity and donations...

"purely out of his sense of justice."

So unless his sense of justice has somehow change it would be expected to compel him to do something similar in the future. Maybe a few years in prison will help temper his 'sense of justice' so he can safely interact with people who may have different opinons than him.

You know it is bad when a vigilante group like the Sea Shepherds throws you out for being too violent.

"I did not intend to injure the crew members of Shonan Maru."

No, he just threw glass bottles at them. Heck not even threw, he launched them with an air cannon.

SSCS said bringing bow gun is not in line with "nonviolent". However, If you check SSCS history, you can find more dangerous firearm SSCS used.
1980: Explosives were used to sink the whalers Isba I and Isba II in Vigo, Spain. Watson said that the boats were "victims of magnetic mines, one of them homemade, which had been planted by the same trio that destroyed the Sierra.
1986: Sea Shepherd attempts to stop Faroe Islands pilot whale harvest. Using rifles, Sea Shepherd activists shoot at Faroe Islands police in an attempt to sink their rubber dinghies.
1986: Attack carried out by Sea Shepherd members Rodney A. Coronado and David Howitt. (Coronado linked to Animal Liberation Front and arrested eight years later by United States FBI for his part in an ALF attack on Michigan State University research laboratory. Charges included use of an explosive device, theft and arson.)
1991: A US crew member on a Mexican fishing vessel, the Tungui reports that Sea Shepherd, some of whose crew were armed with rifles, rammed his vessel causing considerable damage.
1991: Scott Trimmingham, president of Sea Shepherd quits in protest.
Scott Trimmingham: “We had rules about not hurting anyone, about not using weapons. I left because those rules and that philosophy seems to be changing.”
1993: Paul Watson orders the crew on board the Sea Shepherd vessel “Edward Abbey” (formerly US Navy) to open cannon fire at a Japanese fishing vessel. Sea Shepherd crew do not carry out the order, but instead fire a shot across the bow of the Japanese vessel.
2002: Watson tells Animal Rights 2002 Conference in Washington DC that if a person dies from one of his actions, he would consider it “collateral damage”. He believes it is not possible to:
“commit violence against non-sentient objects. Property damage is not violence.”

poor animuxitup...
still trying to get people to watch the "other" hand...
"Video evidence of the incident clearly shows the whalers who reported being injured. They're shown wearing tanks on their backs with spray nozzles in hand"
sorry LIAR, this is just a video of three men on the whaling ship, no time, no lab analysis of the spray, no ID of them in any way. watson just TRIES to say that they injured themselves, here is the proof.. sooy LIAR.. doesnt hold water.

"In other words, the actual results of exposure to butyric acid in scientific experiments on human skin do NOT match the immediate burns reported by the whalers"
sorry LIAR, this is merely one report of their findings, the REQUIRED data from the manufacturers (MSDS) says otherwise. Pay attention to the TOXICOLOGICAL and the ECOLOGICAL sections of the document at:
The dimwit keeps trying to deflect reality by comparing Citric acid, as found in orange juice, or phosphoric acid as found in coke to be relative, unfortunately fir this dimwit, thos acids are in minor concentrations, just as HYDROCHLORIC acid is found in your stomach. When used pure, they will ALL BURN, DISFIGURE, and quite possibly KILL you... same goes for his "rotten butter"... Why is it they have to LIE ?
we only know three things from 30 plus years of violent activism...
It hasn't worked
watson lies
watsons supporters lie

The Japanese version of events is true.

The Sea Shepards account is pure fabrication.

All one has to do is watch (or buy) "Whale Wars" on Animal Planet.

You get to watch the members of the Sea Shepard planning on boarding the of the Shonan Maru #2.

So this line out of the article: " Sea Shepherd said it expelled Bethune because he violated its policies against carrying weapons. " is a bald face LIE.

I hope Mr Bethune spends at least two years in Japanese Prison.
If he thinks floating in the Antartic Ocean is difficult.
He has a rude awakening coming.


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