28 May 2010

Bethune trial told of injuries to Japanese crewman

7:00 pm on 28 May 2010

The second day of the trial of a New Zealand anti-whaling campaigner has focused on the injuries he is accused of inflicting on a Japanese whaler.

Peter Bethune, a member of the United States-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has been detained since February this year and faces five charges in the Tokyo District Court that could see him jailed for up to 15 years.

The 45-year-old was the captain of the kevlar powerboat the Ady Gil, which was sliced in two in a collision with the Japanese fleet's security ship the Shonan Maru II on 6 January in the Southern Ocean and sank soon after.

On 11 February, he boarded a Japanese whaling vessel and attempted to make a citizen's arrest of its captain.

Mr Bethune has pleaded guilty to trespass, vandalism, obstructing commercial activities and carrying a knife. However, he denies the most serious charge of assault on a crewman using a rancid butter bomb.

Japanese whaler Takashi Kominami told the court on Friday that he suffered chemical burns to his face from a butyric acid bottle thrown by Mr Bethune.

Mr Kominami called for Mr Bethune to be severely punished, saying the anti-whaling campaigner does not feel remorse at all.

The accused's lawyer, Dan Harris, said he has not been able to get into the court on Friday but has access to the statements that have been made.

Mr Harris said the rancid butter was thrown at the ship to get people off the deck and was not thrown at any person on board.

The trial began on Thursday and the court is expected to reserve its decision.

Japan defends whaling as part of its culture and carries it out under a loophole to an international ban that allows lethal "scientific research".