Supreme Court turns down Takae lawsuit appeal

June 18, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a resident of Takae in Higashi, where the U.S. military plans to build military helipads as a condition of the partial return of its Northern Training Area. Residents of Takae have been protesting against construction of the helipads. In response, the Okinawa Defense Bureau filed a lawsuit seeking a ban against obstructing passage in the area. On June 17, the second petty bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Kaoru Onimaru, turned down an appeal by Masatsugu Isa, 52, against the lawsuit. In the ruling, the court ordered that Isa “will not physically obstruct the country’s use of roads.” The court gave its ruling on June 13.

The court has stated that they turned down the appeal because the lawsuit did not go against the Constitution. However, the court did not provide a detailed explanation for the ruling. Also, the court did not provide a detailed explanation for not accepting a petition for a final appeal.

The government’s filing of civil suits against individual citizens involved in protests have drawn criticism from many intellectuals nationwide, attracting the tag “SLAPP” suit, a strategic lawsuit against public participation. Isa claimed that this was an abuse of the legal process. However, the court rejected his appeal.
In the initial judgment by the Naha District Court, the court judged Isa as guilty because he raised his hands high between Okinawa Defense Bureau workers as they were unloading sandbags from a truck.

Isa asserted that protests are necessary to ensure a peaceful region to live in where there are no military bases. He filed an appeal stating the judgment “violates Article 21 Section 1 of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of expression.”

In response to the ruling, the Association of Residents Against the Helipad and Lawyers Against the Helipad have released a joint statement. They stated, “It is an extreme injustice to ignore the fact that the residents’ protest activities are based on the right to freedom of expression, and to ignore the precedents that have been set in the past.”

An official of the Okinawa Defense Bureau stated, “We need to build a helicopter landing area to fulfill the final agreement for the return of more than half of the Northern Training Area based on the Special Action Committee on Facilities and Areas in Okinawa (SACO). We are carrying it out to reduce the burden on the citizens of Okinawa. We will work steadily towards fulfilling this agreement.”

(English translation by T&CT and Lima Tokumori)

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