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Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005
Takefuji suit only trying to shut up critics: court
By MASAMI ITO
The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that a lawsuit filed by Takefuji Corp. was aimed at suppressing freedom of expression and ordered the firm to pay 4.8 million yen in damages to a group of lawyers and a publisher.
The case was about another suit filed by the consumer loan giant in April 2003 for defamation of character after a group of lawyers and journalists published the book "Takefuji no Yami wo Abaku" ("Exposing the Dark Side of Takefuji").
The book is an expose of Takefuji's unethical business practices, including allegations of poor treatment of its employees and illegal collection tactics.
The firm had demanded 55 million yen in damages from the three lawyers and the publisher, Doujidaisya.
The defendants countersued Takefuji in January 2004, saying it was trying to suppress freedom of speech.
The Tokyo District Court in March sided with the lawyers and publisher, ruling Takefuji's suit was aimed at suppressing critical expression.
Takefuji appealed the decision.
On Wednesday, presiding Judge Yoshinori Ishikawa ruled Takefuji should have easily "realized (it) has no right to demand damages nor to suspend publication (of the book) and therefore it is likely that (Takefuji) had some other intention or drive in filing the lawsuit."
Ishikawa said the Takefuji suit was lodged "with the intention of suppressing critical comment, and filing such a lawsuit should be declared illegal because it goes against the intention of the trial system."
The defendants and their lawyers told a news conference they were happy with the victory.
"Takefuji tried to use its money to put a seal on criticism (against the company) and in that sense . . . the lawsuit is highly illegal," said Toichiro Sawafuji, a lawyer for the group.