Japan begins first trial of an antiwhaling protester

14:02, May 27, 2010      

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An antiwhaling activist from New Zealand faced his first court hearing Thursday after having been indicted last month for charges related to his boarding of a Japanese whaling vessel and injuring a crew member in February.

At the Tokyo District Court Peter Bethune, 45, former captain of the antiwhaling vessel Ady Gil, accepted the charges of trespassing, forcible obstruction of business, property destruction and violation of the weapons control law, however the New Zealander denied the charge of assault, which carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

"Regarding the assault charge, I deny the charge," he told the Tokyo District Court.

Bethune is charged with allegedly shooting a glass bottle containing butyric acid onto the Shonan Maru No. 2 vessel with a device and injuring a 24-year-old male crew member with the liquid on Feb. 11.

Bethune is a member of the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society which has been involved in numerous campaigns to disrupt Japan's whaling activities in the Antarctic Ocean.

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