Tokyo court rejects retrial over 1959 ruling that US military in Japan is constitutional
By SHUSUKE MURAI | Japan Times, Tokyo (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 9, 2016
The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday dismissed a retrial request over a 1959 Supreme Court ruling that found the U.S. military’s presence in Japan constitutional.
The 1959 ruling is often referenced by proponents of security policy reforms to justify the use of the right to collective self-defense.
Mitsuo Yoshinaga, a lawyer representing a citizens’ group that has been fighting the 1959 ruling, said Tuesday’s decision was “illogical.” He said the district court was determined from the beginning to reject the retrial request.
The 1959 ruling stems from the Sunagawa Incident in 1957, in which seven people protesting the expansion of a now-defunct U.S. air base located in the town of Sunagawa, now part of Tachikawa, western Tokyo, were indicted for trespassing.
The Tokyo District Court acquitted the protesters in 1959 by stating that the presence of U.S. military bases in Japan violated the pacifist Constitution.
The Supreme Court overturned that decision, concluding that Japan has the “inherent right to defend itself” and the U.S. bases can stay where they are because the presence of a “foreign” force does not violate war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.
The protesters, meanwhile, were found guilty after the case was sent back to the Tokyo District Court.
The ruling has been often referred to by proponents of security policy reforms, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who says it is the basis of his interpretation of Article 9.
Gentaro Tsuchiya, 81, one of the protesters found guilty in 1959, said Tuesday’s judgment by the Tokyo District Court is aimed at not damaging Abe’s security policy reform drive.
“The Supreme Court ruling has been used as legal grounds for the security policy reforms. It was clear that the damage to the (Abe) administration would have been enormous if the retrial request were accepted,” he said. “The judgment this time is nothing but a political decision.”
Four of the seven people, including Tsuchiya, submitted a retrial request in June 2014, citing U.S. diplomatic papers that showed the Supreme Court chief justice at the time had contacted U.S. officials to convey a willingness to overturn the lower court ruling.
They said these documents are evidence that their right to a fair trial was violated.
Lawyer Yoshinaga said a complaint against the dismissal will be filed soon.
©2016 the Japan Times (Tokyo)
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