'The Cove' dolphin activist Ric O'Barry detained in Japan

Cinema still of The Cove.

Tokyo - US animal rights activist Ric O'Barry who featured in "The Cove", a documentary about dolphin slaughter in a Japanese town, has been detained in Tokyo by immigration authorities after being denied entry to the country, his supporters said Wednesday.

O'Barry, 76, was held by immigration officials at Toyko's Narita International Airport on Monday and interrogated repeatedly, they said, citing his lawyer.

He was denied entry to Japan on a tourist visa, they said on his website "Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project".

O'Barry appeared in "The Cove", the Oscar-winning documentary which drew worldwide attention to the annual dolphin hunt in the small Japanese town of Taiji, and has frequently visited Japan and the fishing community to protest against the killing of the mammals.

The Tokyo Immigration Bureau said it cannot comment on individual cases, citing privacy rules.

It is not the first time O'Barry has been detained by Japanese authorities.

Last September he was arrested near Taiji on the eve of the start of the controversial six-month dolphin hunt, for allegedly failing to carry his passport after being stopped by police.

He was released the following night.

In recent years, Japanese police have dispatched more officers to Taiji during the hunt in anticipation of possible clashes between locals and activists from conservation group Sea Shepherd.

During the current detention immigration officials accused him of making "The Cove" movie and collaborating with Sea Shepherd, which he denied, the supporters said, citing his lawyer.

O'Barry's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

"I feel I am being used as a figurehead representing all Western activists," he said through his son, Lincoln O'Barry, on the website.

The last social networking post by O'Barry himself is an Instagram photo with the comment: "Here we go again...", showing an immigration sign apparently at a Japanese airport, dated Sunday.

O'Barry first found fame in the 1960s for catching and training five dolphins for the well-known TV series "Flipper", but he has recently fought against keeping the mammals in captivity.

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