|The Japan Coast Guard inspected a Japanese whaling ship on Saturday with a New Zealand anti-whaling activist who is under arrest for trespassing on the vessel in the Antarctic Ocean last month. AFP photo|
TOKYO (AFP) – The Japan Coast Guard inspected a Japanese whaling ship Saturday with a New Zealand anti-whaling activist who is under arrest for trespassing on the vessel in the Antarctic Ocean last month.
Peter Bethune, a member of the militant Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, boarded the Shonan Maru II mid-morning with coastguard officials at Yokohama port, south of Tokyo, according to television footage.
"We are investigating such details as the suspect's path after he intruded into the ship," a spokeswoman for the Tokyo Coast Guard said.
The 44-year-old Bethune, who had been in Japanese custody since he boarded the ship, was arrested when the vessel docked in Tokyo on Friday.
On February 15, he allegedly climbed aboard the ship before dawn from a jet ski intent on making a citizen's arrest of captain Hiroyuki Komiya for what he said was the attempted murder of his six crew.
He was the captain of Sea Shepherd's high-tech powerboat Ady Gil that was sliced in two in a collision with the Shonan Maru II in January.
Bethune has told investigators that he entered the ship by cutting a guard net, according to press reports.
Public broadcaster NHK showed the New Zealander explaining something to investigators through an interpreter near a net at the rear portside of the vessel.
In Wellington, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Saturday that Bethune was reported to be well and in good spirits.
He was visited by New Zealand embassy staff in Tokyo on Friday night and the consular officials were providing information to his wife, Sharyn.
It was the latest chapter in a long-running battle between environmentalists and Japanese whalers, who hunt the ocean giants in the name of scientific research, a loophole in a 1986 international moratorium on whaling.
Japan maintains that whaling has been part of its culture for centuries, and does not hide the fact that whale meat from its annual expeditions ends up in shops and restaurants.