|Innocent or guilty, we'll see you in Taiji.|
By Steven Thompson
It's Judgment Day for Erwin Vermeulen tomorrow.
On Wednesday, February 22nd, the verdict will be announced in Wakayama District Court in the case of Kitagawa vs Vermeulen. Court will be called to order at 11:00am.
The judge will decide whether Erwin Vermeulen is guilty or innocent of pushing Mr. Kitagawa.
I will be there along with many supporters from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Save Japan Dolphins.. A large media presence is expected. I have heard that Private Space may attend. Certainly the Taiji police and the hunters' union will be represented. It is expected to be a lively day for a jig together.
Being with this group of Eco-pirates is always somewhat of a surreal experience for me. Irreverent humor prevails. Tomorrow has been named as Erwin's Hanging Day. Just like in the movies, it would be without precedent for a pirate worth his salt to miss his own hanging day. I expect Erwin will be there smiling, no matter what. My feeling is that he is looking forward to it all.
The best that could happen is for Erwin to be found innocent."Muzai" is the word in Japanese. It is my mantra for the next 18 hours.
What will an innocent verdict mean?
It will mean that the Dolphin Slave Resort owner, their young cry-wolf dolphin trainer Kitagawa, the Japanese police at three levels (Taiji, Shingu, Wakayama), and Ms. I-want-Erwin-in-jail-one-more-day Prosecutor, clearly, obviously, and very publicly screwed the pooch.
While obvious to us that Erwin is innocent, it is not obvious to the Japanese public. An innocent verdict will speak volumes to the Japanese that dolphin lovers are good people.
For dolphin lovers, who already know they are good, Taiji has become a renewed focus because of Erwin's imprisonment. The attempted oppression of Erwin has effectively spread awareness of the dolphin hunt. I cannot thank the authorities enough for this service.
What would a guilty verdict mean?
I don't think that a guilty verdict will change a thing for us. Since Ms. Prosecutor has limited her request from prison time to a small fine, there is now no expectation that Erwin will not get to go home shortly. Either way, Erwin flies home with friends to his family.
The worst case, a guilty verdict, in my estimation, will just encourage legions of Eco-activists to come to Taiji to see the place where the alleged assault took place. If the alleged assault really happened, wouldn't you like to walk in Erwin's footsteps? Maybe we can find the evidence of guilt that has so far eluded Japan's finest.