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WHALING ACTIVIST BETHUNE GIVEN SUSPENDED SENTENCE

By NBF News

Anti-whaling activist Peter Bethune has been given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for five years, by a Japanese court.

The New Zealander faced charges of illegally boarding a whaling ship, the Shonan Maru 2, in the Antarctic in February.

He said he wanted to detain its captain but he was instead taken to Japan, where he was arrested.

He had pleaded guilty to four out of five charges but had denied assault.

Bethune had admitted charges of trespassing, vandalism, possession of a knife and obstructing business.

He was also found guilty of assault, by throwing stink bombs made of butyric acid – rancid butter – at whalers.

His suspended sentence means that he will not be jailed. He is expected to be deported to New Zealand soon.

Bow and arrows
Bethune was part of the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling group, which tries each year to block Japan's annual hunt.

He was the captain of the Ady Gil, a speed boat split in two during a clash with the whalers on 6 January.

Mr Bethune said he had boarded the Japanese vessel on 15 February to make a citizen's arrest of the captain.

The whalers instead detained him and took him to Japan to face charges.

Sea Shepherd has since cut its ties with Bethune, saying he defied group policy by taking bows and arrows with him to the Antarctic.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986 after agreeing to a global moratorium – but international rules allow it to continue hunting under the auspices of a research programme.

It says the annual hunt catches mostly minke whales, which are not an endangered species.

Conservationists say the whaling is a cover for the sale and consumption of whale meat.