Amnesty International begins international movement calling for the immediate release of imprisoned Okinawan peace movement leader

January 28, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

Sakae Toiyama reporting from Washington D.C.

The international human rights organization Amnesty International began an international campaign calling for the immediate release of Hiroji Yamashiro, director of the Okinawa Peace Movement Center on January 26. Yamashiro was arrested, indicted, and has been detained for an extended period of time for his part in the protests opposing the new base construction in Henoko and the helipad construction in the Northern Training Area. Advocates are writing letters to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Attorney General Katsuyuki Nishikawa with demands that include the immediate release of Yamashiro, access to medical treatment, and visitation rights for his family.

The organization is also looking into recognizing Yamashiro as a “prisoner of conscience,” as he was arrested for his political beliefs. This extraordinary situation has the international community calling into question Japan’s awareness of human rights.

Amnesty International has indicated that the health of Yamashiro, who was undergoing treatment for malignant lymphoma, is worsening. They have also see the possibility of the courts extending his detention to February 20, and the lack of family visitation rights, as problems.

They have also presented calls from legal researchers throughout Japan claiming that Yamashiro’s imprisonment is unjust, and that he should be released quickly. There were demands that international human rights laws be adhered to, and the detention be investigated to see if it meets international human rights conventions, which state that imprisonment needs to be “legitimate, necessary, and proportional.” Furthermore, as the Japanese government continues U.S. military base construction despite strong opposition, the arrest of Yamashiro is being seen as an attempt to quash protests.

Amnesty International is requesting advocates write letters to Prime Minister Abe and Attorney General Nishikawa, as well as post on their Facebook pages and contact them through twitter to demand three emergency actions be taken: (1) immediately release Yamashiro unless they can prove that it would not be suitable to release him until the trial, (2) quickly offer him appropriate medical care and secure visitation rights for his family, and (3) respect the rights of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, and the human rights of prisoners.

Amnesty International’s “prisoners of conscience” have included people such as Myanmar’s democratization leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

(Translated By T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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