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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Activists fined for peace fliers in SDF housing

Staff writer

The Supreme Court on Friday fined three peace activists a combined ¥500,000 for trespassing on a Self-Defense Forces housing compound in western Tokyo and distributing antiwar leaflets.

In upholding a lower court verdict of illegal intrusion, the Supreme Court's Second Petty Bench, led by Justice Isao Imai, ruled the activists violated the rights of the residents by passing out the fliers.

Freedom of speech "must be respected as an exceptionally significant right" but is "not granted as an absolute and unlimited privilege," the court ruled.

The court said the trespassing "was not to be considered merely as a minor violation of the law" because the manager of the compound had repeatedly reported the intrusion to police.

The activists said the verdict violated their constitutional rights.

"I feel that this is a crisis for Japan and its democracy," Nobuhiro Onishi, 34, told reporters. The verdict may dissuade other activists from speaking out against the government, he said.

Onishi was fined ¥100,000, while Sachimi Takada, 34, and Toshiyuki Obora, 50, were each fined ¥200,000.

The trio entered the SDF's Tachikawa housing complex in January and February 2004 and distributed antiwar leaflets urging SDF personnel and their families to oppose the deployment of troops to Iraq.

All three acknowledged entering the complex but said they were exercising their constitutional right to free speech. They were held in detention for 75 days after their arrest in April 2004.

Although the eight-building complex is partially fenced and posted with warnings against entering without permission, commercial leaflets are routinely delivered to mailboxes there, according to the three activists.

They were acquitted in December 2004 by the Tokyo District Court, which ruled that they had trespassed but the act did not deserve punishment.

Then the Tokyo High Court in December 2005 overturned that ruling on grounds that while the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, it does not grant the right to enter property against the residents' will.

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The Japan Times

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