Three-judge panel rules O’Barry was wrongly barred entry & deported in 2016
TOKYO––“I’m gonna go back and do it again!” dolphin defender Ric O’Barry emailed to ANIMALS 24-7 late on October 3, 2019, after attorneys Megumi Wada and Takashi Takano won a Tokyo District Court ruling on O’Barry’s behalf that O’Barry is free to return to Japan and even to Taiji, after having been barred for three years and eight months.
O’Barry, 79, featured in the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, about the annual Taiji dolphin massacre and O’Barry’s decades of efforts to stop it, was deported from Japan in 2016 for allegedly creating a nuisance.
“Not peculiar that O’Barry did not have any concrete schedule”
“O’Barry told immigration officials that he was going to watch a dolphin hunt when he tried to enter Japan in 2016, summarized Japan Times of the Tokyo District Court decision. “He had booked a hotel in Taiji and a return flight.”
Said presiding Judge Hideaki Mori, speaking for a three-judge panel, “It is not peculiar that O’Barry did not have any concrete schedule other than watching the dolphin hunt.”
Mori and the two other judges found that O’Barry had not actually obstructed the Taiji dolphin hunt by documenting it and protesting against it.
“It is hard to suspect him of having tried to trouble fishermen,” Mori said.
“Possibility the government will appeal”
The Tokyo District Court panel ruled that O’Barry was both improperly denied entry into Japan on January 20, 2016, and improperly deported on February 5, 2016, after having refused to fly to any other destination from the Narita International Airport near Tokyo.
“There is a possibility the government will appeal, but this order will stand in the meantime,” said a media release from Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project.
O’Barry initially arrived in Japan for the 2015-2016 dolphin hunting season on August 31, 2015, but was almost immediately arrested in the town of Nachikatsuura, near Taiji, for allegedly violating the Immigration Control Law for not carrying his passport.
After prolonged and allegedly torturous interrogation, in apparent violation of international standards of justice, O’Barry spent several weeks in Taiji with the volunteer observers, then left Japan to lead a series of demonstrations in other nations.
(See “I shall return,” Ric O’Barry tells Taiji after torture.)
Spent two weeks at the airport
Returning to Japan about six months later, O’Barry upon arrival at the Narita International Airport “was repeatedly interrogated and placed in a deportees’ facility, similar to a jail,” according to the Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project web site, maintained by his wife Helene Hesselager O’Barry.
Eventually released under a deportation order, O’Barry lived for two weeks at the airport, eating whatever vegan options he could find at the airport’s 7 Eleven convenience store, Helene Hesselager O’Barry said, trying to sleep in the chairs in waiting areas.
“O’Barry has been questioned by Japanese immigration before, but this is the first time he has been detained and barred from entry,” Associated Press reported. “The immigration officials questioning O’Barry are arguing that they can’t believe him because he has lied to them before, such as saying he wouldn’t go to a Tokyo event called Japan Dolphins Day in August last year, but ending up going.”
“Thank you for being fair”
Said O’Barry upon learning of the favorable Tokyo District Court ruling, “Justice has been served. I have a message to the judges who ruled in my favor: Thank you for being fair. I won’t let you down. I have never violated the Japanese legal system and will continue to respect the rule of law. I look forward to seeing your beautiful country and all of my Japanese friends once again, especially those who work tirelessly to abolish the unnecessary dolphin slaughter in Taiji. I will continue to support their peaceful movement in a respectful manner as a law abiding tourist.”
Added attorney Wada in a prepared statement, “This is not only a victory for Ric but also for Japanese citizens – today’s court decision showed us that we are living in a democratic country, which makes me feel so proud.”
Agreed attorney Takano, “Three judges in Tokyo today intelligently showed that Mr. O’ Barry is a peaceful and rule-abiding person and that Japan can be a democratic and an open-minded country that may accept diversified opinions.”
Hacker group Anonymous did create a nuisance
Ironically, while O’Barry himself was found innocent of creating a nuisance, detaining him did create a nuisance, after the situation attracted the attention of the international hacker group Anonymous.
Reported Japan Times on January 23, 2016, “Cyberattacks disrupted access to the official website of Narita airport from January 21, 2016 to January 22, 2016, according to the airport operator. Narita International Airport Corp.
“Police confirmed the attacks were carried out by the group. The website appears to have been hit by attacks that involved large amounts of data being sent in a short period of time. No flight operations were affected.”
“In October 2015 the same Anonymous group shut down both the Narita and Chubu International Airport websites [in protest] against the slaughter of dolphins and trade to aquariums,” Japan Times added. “In September 2015, the same group of hackers took down the Taiji town web site.”
No one is known to have been charged with the Anonymous activity.