Daughter celebrates birthday without activist dad

By Beck Vass

As New Zealand anti-whaling activist Peter Bethune sat confined in Japanese custody yesterday his eldest daughter turned 15, unsure of when she will next see her father.

Mr Bethune, 44, is facing up to three years in a Japanese jail for trespassing, after being arrested in Tokyo on Friday as the whaling ship he had boarded in Antarctic waters docked.

The arrest follows months of high-seas clashes with the Japanese whaling fleet involving Mr Bethune, who is a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

He has been in custody since mid-February, when he boarded the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru II intending to make a citizen's arrest on its captain for what he said was the attempted murder of his six crew.

Mr Bethune's father, Don Bethune, said yesterday that his granddaughter Danielle, who lives in Auckland, turned 15 yesterday but her father had been unable to contact his family to wish her well.

"Ordinarily, no matter where he was, he would be in touch with her by telephone if he couldn't be on site to participate in a party for her."

Mr Bethune described his son as a "unique individual" who was a devoted family man with a commitment to doing what he believed was right.

Danielle's mother, Sharyn, was showing "remarkable resilience" through the tough time, which had been a struggle for the family emotionally and financially, he said. The pair have another daughter Alycia, who is 13.

Mr Bethune said he was still waiting to hear from the New Zealand consulate in Tokyo, who was going to speak to his son.

He said the family was hoping to hear he was being looked after properly and without unreasonable restraint and that any investigation or trial would be dealt with promptly.

Mr Bethune said the family was also hoping that any such investigation or trial would also consider "the rights and wrongs" of the ramming of the Ady Gill.

Mr Bethune said he believed the New Zealand Government had softened its stance on whaling in recent weeks, which he found disappointing.

"If anybody knew what had initially precipitated Pete going on to that boat, they could hardly see that there was any justification for taking exception to it after his own boat had been sunk under his feet.

"The soft attitude of the New Zealand Government in contrast to the hard attitude supporting whalers of the Japanese Government is, we find, an embarrassing contrast."

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has said that Mr Bethune had exercised his right to protest, and New Zealand should allow Japanese law to take its course.

- NZ Herald

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