NZ whaling activist escapes jail

A anti-whaling activist from New Zealand who was handed a suspended sentence for obstructing the annual Japanese whale hunt has vowed to continue his crusade.

Peter Bethune was deported from Japan after receiving a suspended two-year sentence for obstructing Japanese whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.

Speaking on his return home, Bethune said he would never give up his fight.

But the 45-year-old said he was unsure if he would return to Antarctic waters.

Bethune was detained aboard a Japanese whaler in the middle of the Antarctic Ocean in February after clambering aboard. He was arrested when the vessel returned to Japan.

The former member of the conservation group Sea Shepherd was escorted by immigration officers onto an Air New Zealand flight bound for Auckland on Friday.

Throwing stink bombs

Speaking in the city on Saturday, Bethune said that he was ready for a coffee.

“I want to go to a coffee shop,” he told the NZ Herald newspaper.

“In prison, there’s nothing to do. You are stuck in a cell 23-and-a-half hours a day and I have been looking forward to going to a coffee shop and having a coffee and a muffin.”

AFP news agency reported that Bethune said he would never give up his fight to stop Japanese whaling.

The activist, who spent four months in a Tokyo jail, had pleaded guilty to four out of five charges but had denied assault.

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

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

He 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.

Earlier, he had told his trial that he had wanted to confront the Japanese ship’s captain and hand him a $3 million bill for the destruction of the vessel.

Large numbers of police officers were on duty outside the court in Tokyo where the verdict was delivered on Wednesday.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986 after agreeing to a global moratorium.

But it says that whaling is part of its culture and catches hundreds of whales each year as part of what it calls a scientific research programme.