During Sea Shepherd’s 2009-2010 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign: Operation Waltzing Matilda, Captain Pete Bethune was volunteering his services as skipper of the Ady Gil. On January 6, 2010, the much larger and more maneuverable Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru No. 2 deliberately rammed and split the Ady Gil in two, then hosed its crew members down with water cannons as they scrambled for safety amongst the wreckage. As the Ady Gil began to take on water, the Shonan Maru No. 2 ignored Sea Shepherd’s multiple requests for assistance. As a New Zealand citizen, Captain Bethune was empowered under New Zealand law to serve a citizen’s arrest warrant on the captain of the Shonan Maru No. 2 for the sinking of his vessel and the attempted murder of himself and his crew. On January 15, 2010, Captain Bethune made his first attempt to serve the Shonan Maru No. 2 with a citizen’s arrest, but he was unable to complete the service. On February 15, 2010, Captain Bethune made a second attempt, and this time, he was able to successfully board the Shonan Maru No. 2 to deliver his citizen’s arrest warrant, along with an invoice for the loss of the Ady Gil. However while on board the Japanese ship, he was arrested and taken back to Japan where he's been held for 100 days, and is now currently on trial on five charges.
The charges are:
trespass, possession of a weapon, injury to persons, damage to property and obstructing commercial activity.
He is pleading not-guilty to all charges, as he contends he was stopping an illegal operation and was in fact serving a Citizen's Arrest. Interesting to note that although Japan is killing whales for "scientific purposes", Bethune and Sea Shepherd got in their way and now Bethune is charged with "obstructing COMMERCIAL activity".
And so it's easy to understand that the whaling interests of Japan would like him handled punitively, and I see this case as a test of how honourable the Japanese courts are in administering international law. Which they themselves are flouting by whaling.
Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd, said this morning on Breakfast, that he didn't know of a case in maritime law where a captain had deliberately rammed another vessel at sea, or where a ship had been sunk - intentionally or accidentally - by a ship of another country, and the country of the damaged ship has done nothing. The Ady Gil was a NZ registered vessel with a NZ crew, skippered by a New Zealander and NZ has done nothing to question the captain of the Japanese vessel at fault.
I'm not so presumptive that I think I know everything that's going on in the halls of power. I hope there ARE diplomatic discussions taking place behind closed doors, and that NZ is in fact allowing Japan to save face and "come to their own decision" to give a suspended or other appropriate sentence and release Bethune.
It was a bloody heroic thing he did.
And then maybe we could look at what charges the Captain of the Shonan Maru No. 2 might face?