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Pete Bethune's wife shocked at arrest

Saturday 13 Mar 2010 5:50 p.m.

By Michael Morrah

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says the Government won't denounce the arrest of anti-whaling protestor Pete Bethune.

Mr Bethune was charged with trespass last night after he boarded a Japanese whaling vessel in the Southern Ocean.

The arrest came as a shock to his wife and the Green Party are now calling for him to be freed.

Japan took extreme lengths to protect Mr Bethune from waiting reporters and protestors.

They called him a terrorist, and with his head covered by a black hood it looked like he was.

The images came as a shock to his wife, Sharyn Bethune.

“I am probably more concerned now when you see the protestors over there and hear that he has been arrested and there are more serious charges likely,” she says.

“You can't just shrug it off. It's a long way for his kids to go and see him - a Japanese jail.”

Mrs Bethune says Japan should be held to account for the sinking of his group's protest vessel, Ady Gil.

For months Mr Bethune has been trying to disrupt the Japanese whaling fleet in what's become an increasingly bitter and dangerous dispute.

The Japanese are angry too, but according to them, Mr Bethune is safe.

“He looks healthy and does not appear to have lost any weight and he answered readily all our answers,” says Japanese coast guard, Takeo Murui.

The Green Party in both New Zealand and Australia want Mr Bethune released.

But Foreign Minister Murray McCully isn't pushing for that to happen.

“As far as Mr Bethune is concerned he's exercised his right to protest the Japanese authorities take the view that he's committed an offence in doing so,” he says.

“We're not going to prejudge that we just want to make sure he gets the entitlement to proper treatment under their law.”

Mr Bethune's arrest and the publicity that it's generated has further soured relations between New Zealand and Japan.

Not surprisingly, Mr McCully is not backing calls to have the activist set free. Instead he says New Zealand should allow the Japanese legal process to take its course and he won't intervene.

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