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Whaling on trial

Following the exposure of a whale meat embezzlement scandal in Japan by Greenpeace activists in 2008, I was brought in to support communications work around the court case the Japanese government subsequently brought against activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki.

Whaling on Trial (Greenpeace)

Whaling on Trial (Greenpeace)

The “Tokyo Two” went on trial in early 2010, in what would be an unprecedented court case and political prosecution. Sato and Suzuki were arrested on accusations of “theft” and “trespass” for their part in intercepting a box of whale meat embezzled by workers from Japan’s controversial Southern Ocean whaling programme. They handed the box over to authorities requesting a full investigation, but were instead arrested themselves and put on trial.

The two were eventually found guilty, but were vindicated soon after the court verdict when Fisheries Agency officials admitted the corruption the Tokyo Two exposed happened, apologised and imposed disciplinary actions on the staff invovled.

Japan’s actions on the case were specifically and formally condemned by the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as it failed to adhere to international law and agreements, as well as its own domestic laws.

The case is detailed here in Whaling on Trial.


Press releases:



Images from the Whaling on Trial campaign here.

Whaling coverageCoverage of the trial was consistent and broad for the two plus years I worked on it, with Reuters, AFP, AP, The Guardian, The BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, The Christian Science Monitor, The Japan Times, The New York Times, The LA Times, The Independent, The Times, The Irish Times, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, ABC Australia and many more carrying the story.

ABC Australia’s Foreign Correspondent won an award for its feature on the trial, titled “The Catch” .

Featured image by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Greenpeace.

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