Bethune looked after well on Japanese ship - McCully

New Zealand officials have spoken to anti-whaling protester Peter Bethune, who says he is being well looked after on board the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru II, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said today.

Mr Bethune, the New Zealand captain of the Ady Gil, which sank following a collision with the Shonan Maru II in the Southern Ocean on January 6, has been on the Shonan Maru II since climbing aboard the ship on February 15.

He has said he was attempting to present a bill for the sinking of the Ady Gil.

"A consular officer from the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo spoke with Peter Bethune aboard the Shonan Maru II by telephone on Thursday evening after a call was arranged through the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs," Mr McCully said.

"Mr Bethune reported he was in good physical and mental condition."

Mr McCully said Mr Bethune told the officer he was being accommodated in his own cabin and had freedom of movement, and that he had regular meals and was being cared for well by the crew.

Mr McCully said Mr Bethune's family had been briefed on the call.

"For privacy reasons we cannot reveal further details of the conversation, But Mr Bethune indicated he was happy to remain on board the Shonan Maru II and return to Japan with the vessel," he said.

The ship is expected to take several weeks to get back to Japan.

Japanese authorities have not said what they intend doing with Mr Bethune.

It has been reported that he could face piracy charges for illegally boarding the Shonan Maru II.

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