An Australian customs vessel was today steaming towards the Southern Ocean to pick up three anti-whaling activists held on a Japanese ship after Tokyo agreed to release them.
The men from the Forest Rescue Australia environmental group boarded the Shonan Maru No.2, escorting the Japanese harpoon fleet on an Antarctic hunt, around 16 miles (26 kilometres) off Australia’s west coast on Saturday night.
There were fears the trio would be taken to Japan and tried for trespassing but after a flurry of diplomatic activity Attorney General Nicola Roxon said Tokyo had decided to release the men without charge.
“We are pleased that the Japanese government has made a decision that these three men won’t be charged and will be released,” she told the Nine Network.
“But we can’t be confident that will happen next time if people take action, take the law into their own hands.”
Consular officials had been in contact with the men and they were well, she added.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard thanked the Japanese government for their cooperation and said a ship had left port to meet up with the Shonan Maru.