The criminal trial against Sea Shepherd Conservation Society volunteer Captain Pete Bethune began in Tokyo on May 27. Captain Bethune was arrested in March and remains in maximum-security detention in Tokyo. He was detained after boarding the Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru 2 in February to protest the sinking of Sea Shepherd's vessel Ady Gil (which he captained) as well as Japan's illegal whaling operations. He faces several charges, including trespassing and property damage.
Contrary to the many inaccurate media reports currently circulating, Captain Bethune has not pled "guilty" to the charges he's currently facing. If that were the case, there would be no need for a trial. While it is true that Captain Bethune concedes many of the facts related to his charges (such as boarding the Shonan Maru 2 which are of public record), this is not the same as admitting "guilt." Japan does not do "pleas" in the way U.S. criminal law operates.
Captain Bethune boarded the Shonan Maru 2 to present the captain of that vessel with a three million dollar invoice for damages arising from the Shonan Maru 2's destruction of the vessel Ady Gil. Bethune also boarded the vessel in an effort to stop it from slaughtering more whales, and his actions did cause the Shonan Maru 2 to prematurely withdraw from the illegal whaling operation in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Sea Shepherd's Seattle-based law firm, Harris & Moure, will have two of its lawyers in Tokyo during the trial both to assist Bethune's Japanese defense team and to explain Sea Shepherd's position regarding the trial and Japan's illegal whaling operations. Harris & Moure's Managing Partner, Dan Harris, will be available in Tokyo for media questions beginning on May 26 and throughout the trial.
Steve Dickinson, who heads Harris & Moure's Asia practice out of Qingdao, China, will be at the trial both as a translator and as a liaison to Sea Shepherd in the United States. Mr. Dickinson began his legal career with a prominent Tokyo law firm and is fluent in Japanese.