TOKYO, April 2 (Reuters) – Japanese prosecutors on Friday criminally charged a New Zealand anti-whaling activist who boarded a whaling vessel in the Antarctic following clashes between whale hunters and environmentalists.
Regular attempts by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a hardline anti-whaling group, to block the annual whale hunt have sparked irritation in Japan, where the government says whaling is an important cultural tradition.
Some legal experts say Japan’s hunt breaches international laws such as the Antarctic Treaty System. In February, Australia set Japan a November deadline to stop Southern Ocean whaling or face an international legal challenge. [ID:nSGE61I0DD]
Pete Bethune, who Sea Shepherd said had been planning to attempt a citizen’s arrest of the Japanese whaling vessel’s skipper when he boarded the ship in February, was arrested last month in Japan after being held on board for the four-week trip. [ID:nSGE62B08M]
He was indicted on several criminal counts, including one for carrying a knife when he boarded the vessel, Japan’s top government spokesman told a news conference.
“We are dealing with this issue rigidly based on our law,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano added.
Bethune, the captain of the Ady Gil, a high-tech vessel that was damaged in a collision with a Japanese whaling ship in January, approached Japan’s Shonan Maru 2 on a jet ski, breached anti-boarding nets and climbed aboard in darkness on Feb. 15. [ID:nSGE61E01Q] (Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa; Editing by Jerry Norton)