Prefectural Police arrest January protest suspects, search protest-related locations
November 30, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
On November 29, the Okinawa Prefectural Police and the Nago Police Station arrested four people including Chairman Hiroji Yamashiro of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center. The arrests were made in relation to a protest in January against construction of Futenma Air Station replacement facility. Protesters piled concrete blocks in front of the gate to Camp Schwab in order to keep construction vehicles from entering the camp and obstruct Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) activity. The Prefectural Police have conducted several premises searches related to the arrests. Ryukyu Shimpo has confirmed six locations that were searches, but according to officials involved in the searches there are eight. On November 25, the Prefectural Government approved the construction on land inside Camp Schwab, and it appears that the police aim to restrain protect activities prior to the construction proceeding at full speed.
Chairman Yamashiro, a 66-year-old man from Ginoza Village, a 59-year-old man from Nago City, and a 40-year-old man from Nago City are the four who were arrested. The police have not revealed whether any of the suspects have been arraigned, on the grounds that releasing that information would hinder their investigations.
The charges for which the arrests were made took place between about 2:05 p.m. on January 28 and 8:41 a.m. on January 30. They are under suspicion of piling up 1,400 concrete blocks about 5 meters across and 2 meters high on the road leading to Camp Schwab’s gate, blocking the entrance in order to obstruct replacement facility construction. The suspicion is also that several protesters stood together in the way of construction vehicles, barring their entrance and interfering with ODB activity.
Prefectural Police conducted premises searches in the morning on November 30 at Chairman Yamashiro’s residence, the tents in front of Camp Schwab’s gate where citizens opposed to Henoko base construction, the Okinawa Peace Movement Center, and several related locations within Okinawa. They seized dozens of documents and other articles.
Concerning the four arrested people, the Prefectural Police said that the four men played leading roles in the protests, and Chairman Yamashiro, in particular, incited the protest activities. As for the timing of the arrests, the Prefectural Police explained that many people were involved in the incident, and they spent some time identifying the perpetrators and investigating grounds for the arrests.
Lawyer Shunji Miyake interviewed the arrested citizens at Nago Police Station, and explained that they are all keeping silent. He also explained that the protest took place under police surveillance: The act of piling blocks, which is being used as a basis for proving forcible obstruction of official business, was done before the police’s eyes and was repeated after the police removed the blocks the next day. He pointed out that the police’s actions and their reasons for the arrest are inconsistent, and said that if it was forcible obstruction of official business the police would have to have stopped the citizens before they piled the blocks. In addition, he criticized that, “Almost a year had passed [since they engaged in the protest activity] by the time they were arrested,” and professed he had no words to describe the strangeness of this situation.
(English translation T&CT and Erin Jones)
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