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Australian FM: Japan Agrees to Free Two Anti-Whaling Activists


Australia's foreign minister says Japan has agreed to free two anti-whaling activists being held aboard a Japanese whaling vessel in Antarctic waters.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told Australia's national radio early Wednesday that Japan has not yet handed the men back to their own ship.

Smith added that Australian police are investigating whether there had been any unlawful activity.

Japanese crewmembers seized the men - an Australian and a Briton - Tuesday when they boarded a vessel belonging to Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research. The Japanese research institute says the men attacked their vessel with bottles of acid after illegally boarding it.

An Australian court issued a ruling earlier Tuesday that bans Japanese whaling in an area near Antarctica that Australia has designated a whale sanctuary. Japan does not recognize the sanctuary and has said it will ignore any such injunction.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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