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Govt under fire over Peter Bethune case

Published: 12:02PM Saturday April 03, 2010 Source: ONE News/Newstalk ZB

The government's under fire on several fronts over its handling of the Peter Bethune situation.

The anti-whaling protester is facing a long stretch in a Japanese jail with five charges being laid against him after he boarded a whaling ship in February. The most serious charge is causing bodily injury.

Labour is calling on the government to do more to help whaling protestor.

Labour's Foreign Affairs spokesman Chris Carter says that the situation is a total overreaction by the Japanese, and that the charges Bethune faces are very serious for what was a relatively minor offence.

He says the government should be showing more interest in the fate of a New Zealander who is being made into a scapegoat.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says there is not much the government can do to interfere in Japan's legal system.

Japanese prosecutors will formally indict Bethune for trespass; carrying a knife (which prosecutors will say was found in his boot); damaging property (for cutting a guard net to board the vessel) and forcible obstruction of business despite the activities being for non-commercial "scientific whaling".

But most serious is the charge of causing injury which comes with a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

The charge relates to an incident three days before the powerboat Ady Gil and the whaler collided . Japan's coastguard alleges Bethune fired a rancid butter stink bomb which injured a crewman.

McCully says maritime officials are undertaking a thorough investigation and he says he will be very concerned at any unduly harsh charges laid against Bethune.

McCully says he is uneasy about the reports and the New Zealand government is yet to receive confirmation of the charges laid by Japanese authorities. He says Bethune is yet to appear in court and he is still waiting for confirmation from authorities as to the nature of the charges he is facing.

Sea Shepherd's Bill Watson says it is shameful the Japanese are prosecuting Bethune for things he just did not do.

He says the New Zealand government has been equally shameful for not backing a citizen who has basically become a political prisoner.

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  • Supercity said on 2010-04-10 @ 10:34 NZDT: Report abusive post

    The issue is legal and moral, on both counts of the issue Peter is Justified in his actions. TheJapanese whalers are breaking legal and moral law. Whether you believe that Whales are sentient beings or not is unimportant. The fact that they communicate thousands of miles apart and are the largest and oldest remaining species is not a mistake. What is the mistake is the fact that no research is being done by the Japanese to confirm their sentience. We are being blind. Peter is not. The crime bein

  • Layman said on 2010-04-06 @ 10:41 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Interlinking the whaling issue with the criminal act committed by Mr. Bethune is out of context. The whaling issue concerns international protocol that does'nt include criminal actions to be tolerated in furtherance with it's compliance. Soveriegn countries has it's own laws to be respected. Mr. Bethune is bound to it. Let the Japanese justice prevail on him. If the Japanese committed illegal acts in international waters, they should be tried in the International Court of Justice.

  • Layman said on 2010-04-05 @ 22:34 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Mr. Bethune is trying to accomplish a foolish political acrobat. His actions are obviously a stunt to attract media attention and show himself an environmental martyr. he must not forget and should ought to know that performing a criminal act in the name of a purported good cause cannot decriminalize the act. So why put pressure to the country where he came from to bail him out ?

  • Page Turner said on 2010-04-05 @ 09:37 NZDT: Report abusive post

    What does Mr Bethune expect? A knighthood? When you start doing things that look a lot like acts of terrorism you are playing with fire - don't complain if you get burnt.

  • andrew91 said on 2010-04-04 @ 22:39 NZDT: Report abusive post

    It is interesting to note that when a Sea Shepard is arrested or their boats are damaged and sunk they complain bitterly and try to take the Japanise to court, but they prowdly wear t shirts with a list of Japanise ships damaged and sunk by the Shepards, It is perfectly reasonable for Mr Bethune to be imprisoned just as he would expect if the Japanise boarded his ship. The Sea Shepards are no more than Ecopirates and should be treated as such.