Anti-whaling campaigner goes on trial in Japan

20:57, May 27, 2010      

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The damaged powerboat Ady Gil, which belongs to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, floats near the Japanese ship Shonan Maru No. 2 after a collision between the two vessels in the Southern Ocean January 6, 2010. Anti-whaling activists accused Japanese whalers of ramming and sinking the high-tech protest boat in the frigid Southern Ocean on Wednesday, but Japan said that its ship could not avoid the collision. Picture taken January 6, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
A New Zealand anti-whaling campaigner has pleaded guilty to four charges at the start of his trial in Japan but denies the most serious charge of assault.

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.

Bethune told the court on Thursday he had good reason to board the Japanese whaling ship, reported Radio New Zealand.

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.

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.

A specimen of such a projectile was bought into the court on Thursday, causing many in the gallery, including the bench to gag, the ABC reports.

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