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NAHA, Okinawa — Okinawans who live in the shadow of Kadena Air Base want the judges hearing their noise suit to visit their neighborhood and judge the levels for themselves.

On Tuesday, a lawyer for the group asked the three-judge panel from the Fukuoka High Court’s Naha Branch to conduct on-site hearings in Uruma, Okinawa City, Chatan and Yomitan — communities affected by the air base’s flight operations.

More than 5,500 residents filed a lawsuit in 2000 seeking a 7 p.m.-7 a.m. ban on flight operations and $54.3 million in compensation for physical and mental damages they claimed jet noise caused.

Almost five years later, the Naha District Court ordered the Japanese government to pay 24 million yen (about $197,900) to 3,881 residents. But the court dismissed the claims by 1,700 other residents, ruling that noise levels in their neighborhoods were within tolerable limits.

The residents appealed that ruling.

The lower court’s dismissal brought “desperation to many residents,” said their lawyer, Yoshiro Takagi.

He demanded the judges go to the site where, he contended, “there is a high possibility that the court will see the reality of constantly being exposed to jet noise.”

Also at Tuesday’s hearing, a lead attorney for Japan’s national government argued that methods Okinawa’s prefectural government used to sample noise in neighborhoods near the air base “lacked credibility.”

Tuesday’s hearing lasted less than 30 minutes. No date has been set for the next hearing.


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