3 Apr 2010

Government urged to defend whaling protester

6:08 am on 3 April 2010

The Australian Green Party is calling the New Zealand Government spineless for not coming to the defence of the anti-whaling activist Peter Bethune.

Mr Bethune is facing a series of charges in Japan and, if convicted of the most serious, a possible 15 year jail sentence, after boarding a whaling ship in the Southern Ocean last month.

He was the skipper of the Sea Shepherd protest boat Ady Gil, which sank in January following a collision with a Japanese whaling ship.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown says Mr Bethune was doing the job that the governments of New Zealand and Australia had failed to do. Mr Brown says it's gutless for the governments to abandon him, and he should in fact be given a knighthood.

Mr Bethune's father, Don Bethune, says Japan is trying to make an example by bringing the charges, to discourage anyone else who wants to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Peter Bethune has been charged with vandalism, carrying a weapon, injuring a crewman and obstruction of passage of a vessel. He had earlier been charged with trespassing on the ship Shonan Maru II after scaling its deck from a jetski.

Inflicting bodily injury carries a maximum jail term of 15 years, or a fine of up to 500,000 yen ($NZ7170).