The Tokyo District Court [official website] on Wednesday convicted [Sea Shepherd press release] New Zealand anti-whaling activist Peter Bethune on five criminal charges in connection with boarding a Japanese whaling vessel as part of a protest in the Antarctic. Bethune was convicted of assault, trespass, destruction of property, illegal possession of a weapon and obstruction of business. He had previously made an admission of guilt [JURIST report] to all charges except assault when his trial began in May. The assault conviction stemmed from allegations that Bethune threw cartons of rancid butter at the vessel and injured a Japanese crewman in the process. Bethune was sentenced to two years, but the court suspended the sentence for five years, meaning that Bethune will not serve jail time unless he returns to Japan. He will be deported to New Zealand on July 9.
Bethune's charges [JURIST report] stem from boarding the Shanon Maru II, a Japanese whaling vessel, in response to a January 6 collision with the anti-whaling vessel, the Ady Gil, which he captained. As a result of the collision, the bow of the Ady Gil was sheared off, and the crew was rescued by another ship. On February 15, Bethune allegedly approached the Shanon Maru II ship on a jet ski, cut through anti-boarding netting surrounding the ship, boarded the ship and then presented its captain with a bill for $3 million in damage done to his ship. He was taken into custody and sent to Tokyo where he was arrested by the Japanese Coast Guard. Commercial whaling [JURIST news archive] was banned by the International Whaling Commission [official website] in 1986, but Japanese whalers defend their whaling as scientific research because they collect data on the whale's age, diet, and birthing rate, before packaging and selling the meat. In May, the Australian government initiated proceedings [JURIST report] against Japan in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website], claiming Japan has breached its obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling [text, PDF].