The Bethune trial

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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