Why has Erwin Vermeulen been in jail in Japan for the last forty-four days?
The answer is because he is Dutch.
His arrest was originally made due to an alleged push, without any witnesses, reported by a man with a vested interest in shutting down the Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians. There was not a shred of evidence, just the word of an employee of a company killing dolphins, and for this Erwin Vermeulen has been in jail for forty-four days. He has been told that he would be released, but only on the condition that he agrees to confess.
It’s a choice between freedom in exchange for a confession or continued and prolonged incarceration for telling the truth and maintaining his innocence. This is the kind of justice one would expect from a medieval star chamber, not of a democratic and respected nation like Japan.
The Japanese prosecutor in Wakayama Prefecture desperately needs a confession or a conviction in order to justify the millions of dollars spent on extra policing to monitor the Cove Guardians since September 1st, 2009.
When I organized the Cove Guardians they were given specific and definitive instructions. Under no circumstances can Japanese laws be broken and under no circumstances can any Cove Guardian physically touch a dolphin killer. The presence of the Cove Guardians can only be maintained within the boundaries of Japanese law. The prosecutor even has a letter from me to this effect.
To ensure that this policy was implemented, I appointed Scott West, a former enforcement officer with the United Stated Environmental Protection Agency, to lead the Cove Guardian project. Scott made it perfectly clear to the police that the Cove Guardians would cooperate with them at all times and would not break any Japanese laws.
The police, however, needed a crime to be committed to justify expenses.
A crime was committed and it was captured on video. It was the physical assault of two female Cove Guardians by a Japanese fisherman. The police questioned the assailant and simply gave him a warning to not do it again.
And now based on the word of one person, without any evidence or witnesses, Erwin has been held in jail since his arrest on December 16th, 2011.
He has been held without the right of visitation or contact by anyone, aside from his lawyer, and has been denied mail to, or from, family and friends. The only thing he has been given to eat in that entire time has been white rice.
For the Dutch Foreign Affair Minister Uri Rosenthal to say that this is fair treatment and that Erwin will get a fair trial is delusional. This is politics.
Sea Shepherd ships fly the Dutch flag and Sea Shepherd ships are preventing Japan from killing whales, so this is Japan’s retaliation.
Why, of the hundreds of Cove Guardians who have participated in Taiji; and who are from Canada, the United States, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and several European nations did they arrest a Dutch citizen?
Erwin did not commit a crime. But suppose for the sake of argument that he did actually push this man. If such a push did occur, which it did not, can you imagine a person in the Netherlands being jailed for forty-four days and facing two years in prison for a “push?”
And it is interesting that at no time did this man say he was struck, slapped, kicked, punched or elbowed. He said it was a push. Forty-four days for a push is extreme in any country, especially in a country where people push and shove each other routinely just to board a train.
No injury was sustained, not a bruise, not a scratch, not a hair out of place, just the accusation of a man employed to kill dolphins, annoyed at the people wanting to prevent the dolphins from being violently assaulted with knives, spears, hooks and clubs.
The Dutch Foreign Minister has his eye on good trade relations with Japan and this is his priority – not the fair treatment of a Dutch citizen framed for political reasons on the most flimsy of evidence, in fact based on no evidence at all.
Where will Japan go with this political farce?
The prosecutors have stated that Erwin could be imprisoned for two years for this “push.”
In addition, they are saying that if Erwin is still in jail when his visa expires then he will face additional charges for remaining in the country without a valid visa.
This has now gone into the realm of the absurd and yet there has not been a peep from the Dutch Foreign Ministry stating that this may be somewhat unusual to say the least.
Japan is risking ridiculing themselves internationally if they proceed with this kangaroo court against Erwin. And the Netherlands are risking jeopardizing their long held tradition of respect for human rights if they sacrifice one of their own on the altar of international trade.
Check out the actual video evidence of the assault on two Cove Guardian women by a Japanese fisherman: