Japan officially went ahead yesterday and charged Ady Gil skipper Pete Bethune for trespassing.
Bethune had been held aboard the whaling vessel Shonan Maru 2 since February 15th, when he boarded using a jetski under the cover of darkness. He was attempting a “citizen’s arrest” of the captain for attempted murder and to serve a claim for $US3 million for the destruction of his powerboat Ady Gil four weeks earlier.
According to reports, the Japanese Coast Guard are also considering additional charges. If convicted of trespass under the Mariner’s Act, he faces a maximum penalty of three years’ prison or a Y=100,000 ($1200) fine.
Captain Paul Watson told The Australian that Bethune’s arrest is only likely to strengthen public support for the Sea Shepherd. “If he is convicted, I’ve got at least a dozen volunteers who’ve been in contact with me in the last few days, say `bring me down there and I’ll jump on their damned boats and they can take me back to join him’.”
“I think what the Japanese have on their hands is a hot potato and they’re going to want to get rid of it, because this is going to make Pete Bethune a national hero in Australia and New Zealand and a hero for conservationists worldwide,” he added.
Watson also mentioned that Bethune is fully prepared to engage the Japanese court system and state his case that what is happening in the Southern Ocean is wrong. “I’m prepared to go all the way, I’m prepared to do whatever time it takes,” said Bethune.
“But I am not, as a New Zealand citizen, prepared to stand here and watch the Japanese rape and destroy the Southern Ocean and not do anything about it.”