Okinawa land suit thrown out
YOMITAN, Okinawa — A group of eight Okinawans who objected to being forced to lease their land for use as U.S. military bases have lost their final appeal.
Japan’s Supreme Court advised them Thursday it will not hear arguments in their lawsuit against the government, which they claim forced them to renew property leases when they expired in the mid-1990s.
The court said it would issue a written dismissal of the lawsuit Thursday.
The plaintiffs had no grounds for an appeal of a Fukuoka High court ruling that denied them reimbursement for the forced lease of their property, the court said.
Naha District Court directed the central government to pay 400,000 yen to anti-base activist Shoichi Chibana for allegedly illegally occupying his property at a U.S. Navy communications station in Yomitan after his lease expired in 1996.
The lawsuit was joined by seven other landowners whose leases expired the next year. The government passed a new law in 1997 that ensured Tokyo could continue to allow the properties to be used even after the leases expired, a step made necessary by former Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota, a base opponent who refused to sign documents allowing the forced use of the properties.
“Because court rulings always work favorably for the government, this was what I had expected,” plaintiff Zenyu Shimabukuro told the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper. “But, no matter how the court ruled, the fact that the military robbed us of our land with bayonets and bulldozers will never be erased. We will continue to fight to protect peace of Okinawa.”
Shimabukuro and the other plaintiffs are members of the Okinawa Anti-Base Landowners Association.
The association represents about 3,000 owners of base property, or 9.4 percent of the total 32,625 registered landowners.
They own approximately 0.2 percent of the land used for U.S. bases on Okinawa.