17 Feb 2010

NZ protester on whaling boat in good health, says Japan

10:34 pm on 17 February 2010

Japanese officials say a New Zealand anti-whaling activist in custody since he climbed aboard a Japanese harpoon ship is in good health, unrestrained and eating three meals a day.

Japan is likely to take the activist back from Antarctic waters to Japan, where law enforcement authorities want to question him over secretly boarding the Japanese ship before dawn Monday from a jet ski, AFP reports.

Peter Bethune, a member of the environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had boarded the Shonan Maru 2 intent on making a citizens' arrest of its captain Hiroyuki Komiya.

Mr Bethune accuses the captain of attempted murder over the collision in January with a Sea Shepherd high-tech powerboat the Ady Gil that was carrying six crew. He wants to bill him $3 million for the sunken vessel.

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada has said Mr Bethune was being kept aboard the Japanese ship under maritime law which gives the captain the right to take measures to ensure the safety of a ship and its crew.

Mr Okada says Mr Bethune will be taken to Tokyo and handed over to the Coastguard.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Japan is preparing to question him before deciding whether to lay criminal charges against him.

Two Sea Shepherd campaigners previously boarded a whaling ship two years ago and were also taken captive.