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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Top court throws out Yokohama Incident suit

Staff writer

The Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit Friday filed by relatives of five deceased journalists who were convicted of promoting communism in the 1940s and charged with violating the now-defunct Peace Preservation Law.

Over 60 journalists and magazine editors were arrested for breaching the old anticommunism law in relation to a democracy-advocating magazine article published in 1942, a case referred to today as the Yokohama Incident.

The plaintiffs were demanding that the court clear the names of the five men by verifying their innocence, but the dismissal was expected because no sessions were held at the Supreme Court to listen to arguments from the prosecution and defense.

The top court's Second Petty Bench, led by Justice Isao Imai, did not rule on the culpability of the five in upholding a Tokyo High Court verdict. It stated that the journalists were given general amnesty after the war, at which point the case was terminated, and the accused were freed from criminal procedures.

"This is a disappointment. The Supreme Court ignored every single one of our arguments," plaintiffs' lawyer Naoya Tamaki said after the ruling was handed down.

The Yokohama Incident derives from the arrests of approximately 60 journalists and magazine editors between 1942 and 1945 by Kanagawa Prefecture police based on an article printed in Kaizo (Reform) magazine.

The crackdown on leftwingers and other antigovernment groups resulted in convictions for about half of them, who were charged with violating the anticommunist law.

The five men related to Friday's case — Toru Kimura, Eizaburo Kobayashi, Hiroshi Yoshida, Kenjiro Takagi and Toshio Hiradate — were found to have been involved in advertising communism and given suspended two-year prison terms between August and September 1945.

But their relatives alleged that the five were wrongfully charged based on forced confessions, mostly obtained through torture, and had been seeking a retrial since 1986.

"The top court chose not to examine what took place in the Yokohama Incident by dismissing the trial," said Maki Kimura, 59, whose late husband, Toru, was an editor at Chuo Koron magazine before his conviction. Toru passed away in 1998 while in the process of requesting a retrial at the Yokohama District Court.

Kimura argued that the ruling "violated her right of access to court," which is guaranteed under Article 32 of the Constitution.

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The Japan Times

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