The Bethune trial

June 1st, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Father-and-son anti- protesters from Auckland clashed with right-wing Japanese yesterday outside the court where Pete Bethune is being tried. …

Gary Thomason and his son Robert, from Auckland, were moved away by Japanese authorities.

They told the Herald they had gone to to show solidarity for Bethune.

Gary Thomason said: “It’s a personal issue for New Zealanders; New Zealand prides itself on its environment and wildlife and respect for other countries and traditions.”

Ummm if one had respect for other countries and traditions, then one would support the tradition of Japan to hunt and eat whale meat.

I’m not arguing for whaling. I’m just pointing out the contradiction in the statement.

Personally I’m supportive of protests against Japanese whaling, from the likes of Greenpeace as they don’t blow up ships and throw acid at people. I only become more supportive of the Japanese whalers when Sea Shepherd is involved.

Bethune boarded the whaling vessel the Shonan Maru 2 in February. He has admitted trespass, possessing a weapon, damage to property and obstructing commercial activity – charges which carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

But it is believed the prosecution is seeking only 2 to three years.

I don’t know the Japanese criminal code, but to my mind the four charges above are all pretty minor, and none which should attract jail time. Yes I know Bethune brought it on himself, but boarding a ship without permission and cutting a net are hardly the crimes of the century.

If this is all he is convicted of, then he should just be sentenced to time served and booted out.

He denied a charge of assault, saying rancid butter stinkbombs he threw at Japanese ships were no more acidic than orange juice.

Prosecutors told the court a rancid butter, or butyric acid, stinkbomb caused chemical burns to the face of a 24-year-old Japanese crew member during a February 11 clash and also hurt the eyes of other whalers.

This is the more serious charge, as it actually involved violence and personal harm. And again Sea Shepherd have a long history of violence – blowing up ships and ramming ships etc.

Butyric acid is not like nitric acid – it is a fairly mild acid. But it does cause nausea and can do damage. The Sea Shepherd protesters do not throw it at boats, but at people. It is clearly assault, and if Bethune is found guilty on this charge, there should be enough of a punishment to be a deterrent.

But this I don’t mean years in jail, or even lots of months. Again I have no idea of what the Japanese norm is for sentencing, but I would have thought less than six months is appropriate.

Of course Bethune would have got away with throwing the acid bombs, if he had not chosen to board the Japanese ship. They did not invade the SS boats and grab him off there. He boarded their ship, in the full knowledge he would be arrested and put on trial. He wanted the trial as a publicity stunt.

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43 Responses to “The Bethune trial”

  1. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Put the fucker on an aid ship and send him to Gaza.

    They know how to deal with pirates there.

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  2. coventry (316 comments) says:

    Butyric Acid – http://www.inchem.org/documents/icsc/icsc/eics1334.htm
    http://www.sciencelab.com/xMSDS-Butyric_acid-9923216

    Inhalation: Sore throat. Cough. Burning sensation. Shortness of breath. Laboured breathing
    Skin: Pain. Redness. Blisters. Skin burns.
    Eyes: Pain. Redness. Severe deep burns. Loss of vision.
    Ingestion: Burning sensation. Abdominal pain. Shock or collapse.

    Sounds pretty safe to me, not.

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  3. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Slightly safer than cool aid conventy.

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  4. nickb (3,675 comments) says:

    Everyone pray for a jail term….

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  5. coventry (316 comments) says:

    @murray – since when has cool aid (regular flavour, not Jim Jones special) been classed as toxic ?

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  6. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Well at least you got my reference.

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  7. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    This issue underscores for me the way many NZers regard our namby-pamby tree-hugger culture as the way the rest of the world operates. Well the Japanese don’t operate like us. They have their own cultures, their own sensitivities and their own rules. I hope Bethune gets jail time, and plenty of it.

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  8. Dave Mann (1,187 comments) says:

    So, DPF, what would be your response if a bunch of fanatical Japs had created a worldwide organisation dedicated to stopping the lamb trade and were continually scooting around our ports and intercepting, boarding and assaulting the crews of ships carrying our frozen lamb to market?

    This asshole is a stain on our international reputation and he should be punished to the fullest possible extent of Jap law. Pour encourager les autres.

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  9. davidp (3,555 comments) says:

    >Butyric acid is not like nitric acid – it is a fairly mild acid. But it does cause nausea and can do damage. The Sea Shepherd protesters do not throw it at boats, but at people.

    Surely NZ has a law making it illegal to produce or use chemical weapons? Should he stand trial when he gets back to NZ? If not, it makes a mockery of NZ’s principled stand against nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

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  10. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Speak for youself krazy. In my culture bethune is a pirate. I have no love for the japanese whaling industry and I believe they are fundementally corrupt.

    But what sea sheapard does is piracy and i have no sympathy for them at all. they do more harm to anti-whaling cause than good. What Dave Mann just pointed out highlights this.

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  11. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    What Dave Mann said. Bethune is a pirate who deserves to be punished.

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  12. MikeNZ (3,234 comments) says:

    He wanted the trial as a publicity stunt.
    Just like the Gaza blockaiders

    I’m with Murray.
    Now if the Japs were Jewish maybe it would it be a different story at the UN.
    20yrs for piracy is my vote.

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  13. GPT1 (2,103 comments) says:

    I understand that sentencing in Japan is fairly stoic. I would also regard illegally boarding a ship on the High Seas as pretty bad. Sort of like piracy for example.

    Valid point above that Sea Shepherd do more to harm the anti whaling movement than support it. Sea Shepherd seems to me to be about egos, not whales.

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  14. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    @Murray – wtf? I was speaking for myself.

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  15. RRM (9,630 comments) says:

    I’ve heard from a Kiwi expat in Japan that the Judiciary prides itself on its conviction rate, (ninety-something percent) and if you appear on charges you plead guilty ASAP if you know what’s good for you, and you petition the court for mercy/leniency.

    He won’t be getting home detention or a wet bus ticket. :-)

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  16. Graeme Edgeler (3,274 comments) says:

    I would also regard illegally boarding a ship on the High Seas as pretty bad. Sort of like piracy for example.

    United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Article 101:

    Definition of Piracy

    Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

    (a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:
    (i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
    (ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
    (b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
    (c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).

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  17. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Krazy “This issue underscores for me the way many NZers regard our namby-pamby tree-hugger culture as the way the rest of the world operates.”

    You can see how I might of viewed it as a representative statment of “many” New Zealanders.

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  18. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    Murray – Sorry I can’t. Had I said ‘every NZer’ I could completly understand your objection (assuming you’re a Kiwi that I would have been tarring with such a generalisation). Semantics. Now, how many years will he get?

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  19. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Assume away, my bother is on athe Maori roll if that helps.

    Many is more than one so from where I’m sitting it didn’t look like you were just speaking for yourself.

    He’ll get 3 and count himself lucky. the Japanese will be shocked he tries to appeal and if he pushes his luck they’ll up to 5. They are a regulated society and don’t react well to be dicked about.

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  20. 2boyz (254 comments) says:

    Boot him out as quick as possible, just imagine if he got jail time. the hunger strike, the interviews, the womans magazine articles, the book & the movie. The guy’s a prat but….enough all ready.

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  21. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Regulated society, who says he’ll get to have interviews at all?

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  22. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    Jeez Murray! My comment was based on first-hand conversations with colleagues, family members, students, and from reading the our dribble that passes as the MSM. I don’t speak on your behalf. I didn’t even pretend to speak on your behalf. But I withdraw and apolgise if you have even the slightest feeling of offence that I may have done so.

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  23. ben (2,414 comments) says:

    How is the fact that the Sea Shepherd boat (apparently deliberately) accelerated into the path of another boat causing a collision not before the court? To my mind that is the most serious act of all by Sea Shepherd. Is Sea Shepherd being held to account for that by anyone, anywhere?

    If I was in Japan I would join protestors and happily wave piracy (although not fascist) signs at Bethune. He is a thug and I would quite enjoy telling him so.

    Mr Thomason does not speak for all New Zealanders.

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  24. Inventory2 (10,166 comments) says:

    Crocodile tears from Bethune yesterday methinks. Why did he take the Ady Gil down there in the first place. There’s been little reporting of the finding by the Aussie maritime safety people that the boat was not suitable for the role it was being used in by Sea Shepherd.

    And does Bethune not know that when you fire a glass bottle from a launcher and it hits a hard surface it will shatter? For a bloke who supposedly designed a state-of-the-art boat, he seems to have a piss-poor knowledge of the laws of physics!

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2010/06/crocodile-tears.html

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  25. kyotolaw (52 comments) says:

    Very often Japanese courts give heavy sentences, suspended for a period of time. (ie 10 years jail, suspended for 3 years). As long as you keep your nose clean for the suspension period, you will not be incarcerated. I’ve never been involved in the criminal side of the Japanese legal system, but apology and restitution to the victims of your crime are big parts of the informal process, and penitence is a big component of the sentencing decision. Pleading not guilty, as Bethune has for assault, is seen as a sign that you are not penitent, and if found guilty (as 99% of defendants are), you will usually attract a heavy sentence.

    I haven’t been following the Japanese media on this issue, but I would say that he would probably face suspended sentences on the counts he has pleaded guilty to, and jail time on the count he pleaded not guilty to.

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  26. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Stay calm kiwi. All I was saying was you thoughts were not representative of of what i’m familier with. You said you speaking for yourself but you’d phrased in such a way as to make it seem like you were speaking of a group. No great drama.

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  27. RRM (9,630 comments) says:

    kyotolaw – please post more about this in the Justice System / crime / law & order threads. That is very interesting.

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  28. Nefarious (533 comments) says:

    Smother the loser in sardines, stick him in a seal suit and chuck him in the orca tank at seaworld.

    See how much the fucker loves whales then.

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  29. Kimble (4,405 comments) says:

    What are the odds that the people claiming that throwing a mild acid at someone does not constitute assault are the same ones claiming that smacking a childs bottom is practically GBH?

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  30. Yvette (2,743 comments) says:

    If the time and costs [like one sunk boat] had, instead of fooling around in the Southern Seas, been put into financing a series of competitions in japan where winners were flown out to New Zealand to be taken on Kaikoura Whale Watch tours, how many could have been bought out in this way? Make one trip available on US programme ELLEN to ensure the international publicity.

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  31. krazykiwi (9,189 comments) says:

    @Kimble – you won’t find shorter odds anywhere

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  32. burt (7,988 comments) says:

    I’ve just thrown acid at a bus driver who stopped at a red light. For some reason I’ve been arrested rather than the bus driver – can someone please explain to me why the bus driver who was doing something I didn’t like wasn’t arrested instead of me?

    The Japanese may as well give him a death sentence to compensate for the fact his suicide attempt driving the Ady Gill infront of a ship failed to kill himself and all of his crew.

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  33. GPT1 (2,103 comments) says:

    Kimble that is an outstanding call.

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  34. JiveKitty (869 comments) says:

    “If this is all he is convicted of, then he should just be sentenced to time served and booted out.”

    “there should be enough of a punishment to be a deterrent.

    But this I don’t mean years in jail, or even lots of months. Again I have no idea of what the Japanese norm is for sentencing, but I would have thought less than six months is appropriate.”

    You’re dealing with what should happen here. He knew before he engaged in his actions that there was a good likelihood he would have to face the Japanese courts. If he did not know this, his reasoning was or is functionally impaired. Given this knowledge (I assume his ability to reason was not impaired), he still made the choice. What should happen is that he be given a sentence in-line with what Japanese courts would typically give for these. If that is typically a significant number of years then he should be sentenced to that. To do otherwise would pervert the functioning of the Japanese justice system.

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  35. Murray (8,841 comments) says:

    Should have torpedoed the jap whaler and blamed the norks.

    Its all the rage.

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  36. BlairM (2,304 comments) says:

    I don’t care about the fishing of a plentiful resource, and I don’t care about any criminal who uses violence to stop it. I hope the bastard gets taught a lesson.

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  37. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    Now Bethune can be even more of a loser father than he is now.

    I hope his children tell him to piss off and become chiefs of major oil conglomerates.

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  38. Steve (4,518 comments) says:

    Has this pathetic timewaster Bethune ever had a real job in NZ or actually paid Tax in NZ? just a Civil Servant maybe

    Hey kids, I’m gonna get arrested and taken to Japan, would you like a holiday trip to Japan care of all of the soft cock wimps in NZ?.

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  39. annie (540 comments) says:

    This turkey Bethune has singlehandedly set back the anti-whaling cause. Put the Japanese in a position where backing down would involve losing face, and it’ll be many a year before they consider compromise on their whaling stance.

    Idiot. Whalekiller. Attentionseeker.

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  40. RedTussock (7 comments) says:

    I refer you to comments in January this year …….

    http://redtussock.blogspot.com/2010/01/siege-on-common-snese.html

    It was written in response to the reception I received from Pro Whalers when I pointed out that Japan was not respectful of Antartic treaties and other cultures when it chose to go anywhere it liked and hunt whales…. needless to say this invoked all sorts of rabid and rascist responses from the Land of the smokey sun.

    What I do take exception to is the arrogance of Japanese whaling supporters who seem to think they can go anywhere in the world and Hunt Whales. It seems an awful lot like the political arrogance that pervaded Japanese foreign policy prior to WWII. I have no objection to them hunting whales in the traditional way with row boats based on the Japanese coast … they are exercising a traditional right to gather food.

    Nor for that matter do I think that Sea Shepherd is achieving anything in the way of sympathy for the Anti Whaling lobby in any way shape or form. Bethune is naive if he thinks that his actions will illicit sympathy for saving whales. It does however evoke a deep sense of “bugger off Jappo” in most people I have spoken with lately. Oh well my 2 cents worth, or is that .01% of a Yen :-)

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  41. RedTussock (7 comments) says:

    I refer you to comments in January this year …….

    http://redtussock.blogspot.com/2010/01/siege-on-common-snese.html

    It was written in response to the reception I received from Pro Whalers when I pointed out that Japan was not respectful of Antarctic treaties and other cultures when it chose to go anywhere it liked and hunt whales…. needless to say this invoked all sorts of rabid and rascist responses from the Land of the smokey sun.

    What I do take exception to is the arrogance of Japanese whaling supporters who seem to think they can go anywhere in the world and Hunt Whales. It seems an awful lot like the political arrogance that pervaded Japanese foreign policy prior to WWII. I have no objection to them hunting whales in the traditional way with row boats based on the Japanese coast … they are exercising a traditional right to gather food.

    Nor for that matter do I think that Sea Shepherd is achieving anything in the way of sympathy for the Anti Whaling lobby in any way shape or form. Bethune is naive if he thinks that his actions will illicit sympathy for saving whales. It does however evoke a deep sense of “bugger off Jappo” in most people I have spoken with lately. Oh well my 2 cents worth, or is that .01% of a Yen :-)

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  42. angie stone (53 comments) says:

    If a Japanese citizen committed what NZ perceives as a crime be it on NZ land or NZ property offshore(on the high seas) would NZ entertain the japanese government asking for leniency?

    I would think not.

    Mr Bethune dug his own grave. What stupid person jumps onto a Japanese whaling boat and says, “g’day mate, I’m here to arrest you?”

    I bet this will be the last time Bethune will be making citizen’s arrests.

    Dude should spend maybe 6 months in jail on a strict whale meat diet then be booterd out of japan.

    I support activism but not stupidity.

    http://www.angel-charlene.com

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  43. big bruv (13,548 comments) says:

    Bugger!

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/asia/3891799/Bethune-gets-two-years-suspended-jail

    What a pity that Bethune is not spending the next two years inside a Japanese prison cell.

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