Erwin with Otis: Otis was a rescue from a cruelty situation.Erwin with Otis: Otis was a rescue from a cruelty situation.Thursday January 26 marked the start of court proceedings for Dutch Cove Guardian Erwin Vermeulen, who has been detained for more than 40 days on false charges of assault. Erwin was in Taiji documenting the town’s annual dolphin massacre, which runs from September until March, in an effort to bring global awareness to this horrific slaughter, when he was falsely accused of pushing one of the dolphin resort employees.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had a definitive presence in the courtroom. Board Director Dr. Bonny Shumaker and Sea Shepherd Netherlands Director Geert Vons made the trip to Japan to support Erwin. Also in attendance were Cove Guardian campaign leader, Scott West, as well as 5 volunteers; none were allowed contact with Erwin.

Until last week, Erwin was being held in the Shingu jail, near Taiji. He has now been transferred to Wakayama, where the trial will take place. Erwin has been kept under solitary conditions and was not told what charges he was being held on until his transfer last week. He has been denied contact with anyone in the outside world including loved ones and fellow Sea Shepherd volunteers. He has been refused any reading material while detained and has been subject to continual interrogation.

Even more shocking is the fact that while in Shingu, Erwin was fed a diet of mostly-if not all- white rice and his requests for nutritional supplements were denied.

The Dolphin Resort trainer who accused Erwin of pushing him gave his statement before the judge. The trainer claims Erwin pushed him in the chest area. The accuser’s account of the incident appeared to be inconsistent with the written statement he provided to the police a few days after the alleged incident. The prosecution went so far as to try and obtain DNA evidence to prove Erwin touched the man. Police collected "foreign matters" from around the trainer’s chest, but the DNA test was negative.  This test was presented in court and proved, even scientifically, that there was no contact between the two men.

After the accuser gave his statement, Erwin took the stand looking visibly thinner, fatigued, and had not been provided with a haircut or shave while detained.

The prosecution began by attempting to trick Erwin into making harmful remarks about Sea Shepherd; these attempts failed.  He maintains that he had no contact with the trainer and that his hands were full carrying a tripod, camera, and communication radio- leaving no free hand for him to push the man. In his recounting of events, Erwin said he passed a so-called roadblock and that the trainer was on his cell phone and did not even notice him until he was 20 meters past the barricade. Shortly afterwards the Taiji police arrived. Erwin stated that at the time they did not mention anything about the alleged assault, only that he had crossed a no trespassing sign. Only some time later after the Wakayama police and the accuser spent more time conversing, and Erwin and the rest of the Cove Guardians were preparing to leave, did the police inform Erwin that the trainer was claiming he had been pushed.

The prosecution proceeded to bring up irrelevant accusation of trespassing and how taking photos of people who don’t want to be photographed is offensive. Erwin’s reply was “Yes, well I am offended by the dolphin slaughter. It’s not a crime to offend, but I’m not here for photos or trespassing, I’m here for pushing.” He also pointed out to the court that the Cove Guardians have a silent agreement with the police “when we see a sign, we enter once and the English speaking police will tell us if it’s legal or not. The locals always ignore the signs, only they are never reprimanded.”

During the court proceeding Erwin alludes to the conditions inside his jail cell. He was asked to

put on the jacket he was wearing during the alleged crime, as a reenactment for the court. Erwin remarked “I wish I had this in my cell because it’s freezing in there.” When the court was considering taking a break for dinner Erwin said, “ I don’t need to eat. It’s nice and warm in here. This is the first time in two weeks that I’ve been warm.”

It is important to remember that Erwin Vermeulen is being held on charges of simple assault, due to an accusation that he merely pushed another person, and is being subjected to highly inhumane conditions. The conviction rate in Japanese courts is 99% and most detainees confess very quickly. It is easy to see why, after learning of the subpar conditions Erwin is being subjected to inside the Japanese prison system. Through the course of his imprisonment and harsh treatment, Erwin has maintained his innocence and Sea Shepherd will do everything in our power to see him free and justice served.

The trial continues February 1st when the defense will present their case and a Sea Shepherd witness will be allowed to give a testimony. Closing arguments are scheduled for February 16th with a verdict on February 22nd, meaning Erwin will spend another month in jail on a ludicrous charge. If convicted Erwin could face up to two years in prison along with a large fine.

Following the court proceedings, Sea Shepherd Netherlands Director Geert Vons had the following statement:

“Erwin Vermeulen has now become a trump card in the dispute between Japan and the Netherlands over whaling. Sea Shepherd’s ships are registered in the Netherlands and every year when the whale hunt starts Japan complains to the Netherlands about environmental activists hindering its whale hunters.

The charges against Erwin were only clearly stated on Saturday. He is being treated like a notorious criminal. He is not allowed any contact with the outside world, or any letters. It is a very, very sad story. I had expected more support from the Dutch Government, for a Dutch national.”

According to the Dutch Animal Rights Party, Foreign Affairs Minister Uri Rosenthal is “not doing enough” and they want a debate about the issue in the Lower House. According to Esther Ouwehand, one of the party's two members of parliament, Japan has a reputation for arresting activists who it regards as “hindering” whale hunts for political reasons. Ouwehand wants Rosenthal to summon the Japanese ambassador.

  Please contribute to our
Legal Defense and Education Fund

Donate Now

 

Sea Shepherd
Operation Jairo 2015 Sea Turtle Defense Campaign
Operation Jairo 2015 Sea Turtle Defense Campaign
Sea Shepherd launches Operation Jairo, second-annual sea turtle anti-poaching campaign in Costa Rica, Honduras and Florida. Credits and special thanks: Film by BlueMedia.no Music by Kai-Anders Ryan kaiandersryan.no Photos by Mélanie Chamorel melaniechamorel.com "Turtle in trouble" photo by Jordi C...
Sea Shepherd Captures Rare Footage of Elusive Vaquita During First Sighting since 2013
Sea Shepherd Captures Rare Footage of Elusive Vaquita During First Sighting since 2013
On April 18, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society captured rare footage of the elusive and endangered vaquita porpoise in the waters of Mexico’s Gulf of California, the small cetacean’s only home on Earth. The sighting marks the first time since 2013 the shy creature has been spotted and filmed in ...
Strong Hearts, Iron Will – Sam Simon Crew Pays Tribute to the Late Sam Simon
Strong Hearts, Iron Will – Sam Simon Crew Pays Tribute to the Late Sam Simon
The Crew of Sea Shepherd's M/V Sam Simon pays tribute to the late activist, philanthropist, great humanitarian and TV Executive Sam Simon, thanking him for the wonderful ship he provided for them to save marine life in Antarctica and around the world. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is pro...
Sea Shepherd Does What Others Can't or Won't
Sea Shepherd Does What Others Can't or Won't
Sea Shepherd. Who are we? What do we do? Sea Shepherd is not just an organization. It’s a global movement. Volunteer crews boldly go where others can’t or won’t. Here’s a look at some highlights of some of our recent campaigns to defend, conserve and protect marine wildlife and habitats wo...
Sea Shepherd's Operation Infinite Patience: The Cove Guardians expose Taiji
Sea Shepherd's Operation Infinite Patience: The Cove Guardians expose Taiji
Melissa Sehgal and her Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian team highlight the daily atrocities that occur against much beloved, intelligent and social dolphins in Taiji, Japan for six months of each year.
Sea Shepherd Science – Biologist Jack Grove on Sea Shepherd and Preserving Galapagos Islands
Sea Shepherd Science – Biologist Jack Grove on Sea Shepherd and Preserving Galapagos Islands
Biologist Jack Grove has seen firsthand the devastation to the species living on Galapagos Islands. Natural resources are being depleted at alarming rates. Sea Shepherd aims to change that.
Operation Grindstop 2014: 14 Crew Arrested During Grind
Operation Grindstop 2014: 14 Crew Arrested During Grind
During Operation Grindstop, Sea Shepherd was on constant patrol protecting Pilot Whales from brutal slaughter in the Faroe Islands. Only one grind was carried out during Sea Shepherd’s campaign, and our volunteers stood fast to the bitter end. Maggy Gschnitzer is one of 14 of our crewmembers arres...
Thank You Steve Wynn
Thank You Steve Wynn
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society would like to personally say thank you to Steve Wynn for allowing us to present our photo exhibit "Taiji Dolphins: The Truth Behind The Tarps" on September 19-21, 2014 at the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.
Martin Sheen Unveils Sea Shepherd’s Newest Vessel, R/V Martin Sheen, Named in his Honor
Martin Sheen Unveils Sea Shepherd’s Newest Vessel, R/V Martin Sheen, Named in his Honor
October 18, 2014 - Sea Shepherd unveils the new R/V Martin Sheen named for the award-winning actor, activist and Sea Shepherd supporter. Martin Sheen was on hand to help unveil and christen the vessel at a press conference in Marina del Rey, Calif. on Oct. 18, 2014 where the media and public got the...
Shannen Doherty reacts to dolphin slaughter in Taiji
Shannen Doherty reacts to dolphin slaughter in Taiji
September 20, 2014 - Taiji, Japan - Actress Shannen Doherty joins Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians at Taiji, Japan's infamous cove to bear witness to their brutal annual dolphin drive hunts. In this clip, she describes her reaction to seeing a dolphin drive and slaughter.
Operation GrindStop 2014: Sea Shepherd Helps Pilot Whales Back Out to Sea
Operation GrindStop 2014: Sea Shepherd Helps Pilot Whales Back Out to Sea
On Wednesday, July 30th, Sea Shepherd spotted and escorted a pod of pilot whales away from the Faroe Island shores. To help with Operation GrindStop 2014: https://my.seashepherd.org/NetCommunity/SSLPage.aspx?pid=860 To learn more visit: http://www.seashepherd.org/grindstop/ Music: 'The Complex' b...
Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 Campaign Update
Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 Campaign Update
Nearing the End, Operation Toxic Gulf campaign is 3/4 of the way through. Learn how the crew has been keeping busy and the exciting discoveries made thus far. To help support Operation Toxic Gulf: https://my.seashepherd.org/NetCommunity/SSLPage.aspx?pid=859 To learn more: http://www.seashepherd.or...
Operation Grindstop 2014: Introducing the On-Shore Crew
Operation Grindstop 2014: Introducing the On-Shore Crew
On-shore volunteers Ellen and Maxime describe the roles of the Operation Grindstop on-shore team. Patrolling the beaches and looking out from the hills, our crew is vigilant and determined to ensure no pilot whales fall victim to a grind. To help with Operation GrindStop 2014: https://my.seashephe...
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Announces Operation GrindStop 2014
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Announces Operation GrindStop 2014
June 17, 2014 - Operation GrindStop 2014 Campaign Launch Press Conference in the Faroe Islands: Sea Shepherd Global's Director of Ship Operations Captain Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd USA's Campaign Director Scott West, and Sea Shepherd France's President Lamya Essemlali officially launch Operatio...
Operation Toxic Gulf 2014
Operation Toxic Gulf 2014
Sea Shepherd & Ocean Alliance Set Sail on "Operation Toxic Gulf 2014"
Operation GrindStop 2014
Operation GrindStop 2014
Operation GrindStop 2014 is underway! Join us for the largest land- and sea-based campaign in Sea Shepherd history! To help with Operation GrindStop 2014: https://my.seashepherd.org/NetCommunity/SSLPage.aspx?pid=860 To learn more visit: http://www.seashepherd.org/grindstop/
From the Cove to Captivity Contest Winner - AnaGirlEmpath
From the Cove to Captivity Contest Winner - AnaGirlEmpath
http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/2014/03/18/sea-shepherd-announces-winners-of-from-the-cove-to-captivity-video-contest-1564
From the Cove to Captivity Contest Runner Up - RenaudK
From the Cove to Captivity Contest Runner Up - RenaudK
http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/2014/03/18/sea-shepherd-announces-winners-of-from-the-cove-to-captivity-video-contest-1564
From the Cove to Captivity Contest - Megan Rose Taylor
From the Cove to Captivity Contest - Megan Rose Taylor
I am currently studying Animal Management at college and have always been passionate about animal welfare. When I learnt what was happening in Taiji I was devastated and for a while felt ashamed to belong to the human race. That is until I discovered Sea Shepherd and the Cove Guardians who made me f...
Guang Zhou Market
Guang Zhou Market
With global shark populations being driven towards extinction, this is not just a China issue, but a global issue and we are all responsible.
Real Men Don't Whale
Real Men Don't Whale
Clive Standen, star of History Channel's "Vikings", speaks out against the continued barbaric slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins in the Faroe Islands
Dr. Godfrey Merlen on Scientific Whaling Versus Cultural Whaling
Dr. Godfrey Merlen on Scientific Whaling Versus Cultural Whaling
English Biologist Godfrey Merlen Weighs in on the differences between "Cultural" and "Scientific" Whaling
I am a Cove Guardian
I am a Cove Guardian
Taiji (太地町) Japan - Join the Cove Guardians from whereever you are. Take action to help stop the slaughter of innocent dolphins and whales. 日本語字幕 click [CC]
The Importance of Passion Over Experience
The Importance of Passion Over Experience
Captain Watson explains what he looks for in a Sea Shepherd volunteer