Sea Shepherd court case brutal says Bethune

'EXTREMELY SAD': Peter Bethune is trying to recover costs for the boat that sank after being rammed by a Japanese whaler in 2010.
'EXTREMELY SAD': Peter Bethune is trying to recover costs for the boat that sank after being rammed by a Japanese whaler in 2010.

New Zealand environmentalist Peter Bethune has described a cross-examination during his court battle in the United States against anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd as a "most unpleasant experience".

Bethune is suing Sea Shepherd for US$500,000 (NZ$618,865), money he says the non-profit owes him for the sale of his trimaran, Ady Gil, before it was rammed during a confrontation with a Japanese whaling ship.

He said he took legal action in early 2011, when the anti-whaling group failed to pay him by the November 2010 due date.

The court case in Annapolis, Maryland, ended yesterday.

"It's a shame to do this, to be taking a non-profit to court," Bethune said today.

"But if I didn't take legal action, I would be allowing them to steal $500,000 from me and it's a large amount of money. It's the right thing to do. I couldn't let them just walk all over me like that."

Bethune wouldn't give details about the case, saying it was before the court, but said the hearing was a "brutal experience".

"I wouldn't say it's been a nightmare, but it's been really unpleasant. I had to re-live the ramming and subsequent activities. I found it a very distasteful experience, especially the cross examination," he said.

"I just found it the most unpleasant experience to have these people slinging lies and half-truths at me. I didn't like it at all."

Bethune said the case had cost him nearly six figures and he would have to wait about two months for the ruling.

 "It's disappointing. I just want to put this behind me. I'm absolutely sick of this hanging over my head," he said.

The relationship between Bethune and Sea Shepherd turned sour after the Ady Gil, which Bethune captained, was rammed by Japanese whaler Shonan Maru II in 2010.

A month later, Bethune boarded the Japanese ship to demand compensation, but was detained and taken to Japan for prosecution and was imprisoned for five months.

Bethune said that during this time he was "squeezed away" from Sea Shepherd before he quit.

He was sentenced to two years in jail, but the sentence was suspended for five years.

Both Bethune and Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson have since accused each other of wrong doing in relation to the sinking of the Ady Gil and the boarding of the Japanese vessel.

"I went down to Antarctica to fight Japanese whalers and I boarded the Shonan Maru and I spent five months in prison. I don't regret it, it was the right thing to do at the time," he said.

"What Sea Shepherd has done to me since then is wrong. All I'm trying to do is right that."

Bethune's court case came days after Watson fled Germany over fears he would face extradition to Japan over his anti-whaling campaign.

In a message to supporters on Monday, he said he was in a safe place, "far away from the scheming nations who have turned a blind eye to the exploitation of our oceans".

A spokeswoman for Sea Shepherd could not be reached.