Antibase Okinawa activist freed after 5 months' detention

NAHA —

A prominent leader of antibase activity in Okinawa was released on bail Saturday after five months in detention in connection with his opposition to U.S. military bases there.

The Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court ordered Hiroji Yamashiro, 64, who heads the Okinawa Peace Action Center, released on bail, upholding the Naha District Court’s decision on Friday to grant bail. Prosecutors had appealed the district court ruling.

Yamashiro was arrested in October for allegedly cutting barbed wire at a U.S. military training area in Higashi, Okinawa, the southern island prefecture where the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan are located.

Yamashiro has led groups opposing a plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.

During his first court hearing at the district court Friday, Yamashiro admitted to the charge of destroying property by cutting barbed wire. But he pleaded not guilty to two other charges—of forcible obstruction of business and assault.

Yamashiro, along with others, is suspected of piling some 1,480 blocks in front of the gate to Camp Schwab in January 2016 to prevent delivery of equipment and materials needed for the relocation work there.

He is also suspected of injuring a local defense bureau official by grabbing his shoulder and shaking him last August near the U.S. military training area in Higashi.

The high-profile case prompted human rights groups including Amnesty International Japan to call for Yamashiro’s immediate release.

© KYODO

  • 1

    browny1

    Whether one agrees with Yamashiro's politics and his actions or not - this has simply gone way beyond and as his defense argued, is now nothing but an act of "suppression".

    His public protests and acts of civil dis-obedience have become an embarrassment for Abe Inc, and they have avoided nothing in attempting to silence and squash him and what he stands for.

    If he is guilty of crimes, he should have been charged in the first instance, fined and or sentenced (suspended or otherwise) appropriately to the severity of the acts. But no - he has been detained indefinitely to suppress him, his activities and freedom, while others who engage in arguably far greater anti-social acts & crimes roam at will.

    But who'd be surprised when you've got a regime imposing itself upon the judiciary & media, essentially calling all the shots - you know - to protect the citizens from evil. BS Big.

  • 2

    Yubaru

    He is also suspected of injuring a male official of the local defense bureau by grabbing his shoulders and shaking him in August of that year near a U.S. military training area in Higashi, and using cutters on barbed wire at the facility in October

    Give me a break, it's called a simple assault and the official wasn't injured.

    He has been held too long. He should be granted bail and then given his day in court. But this is Japan folks, and what every single person faces if you do something the government tells you not to do and they get tired of talking.

    This is a human rights issue, not the bases, this guy here.

  • 0

    Kazuaki Shimazaki

    If he is guilty of crimes, he should have been charged in the first instance, fined and or sentenced (suspended or otherwise) appropriately to the severity of the acts. But no - he has been detained indefinitely to suppress him, his activities and freedom, while others who engage in arguably far greater anti-social acts & crimes roam at will.

    You do realize that this guy has violated the criminal law about 5 times these past two or so years before they finally shut him down. If they really wanted to get as tough on him as possible, they could always have arrested him, kept him in the bin for 23 days as is their de facto due, and brought him to court, and the court will have to find him guilty because he does fulfill all the formal requirements of the relevant offences. The court might start with a fine or suspended sentences, but by the 2nd or 3rd times it'll be hard to justify not putting him in prison and by the 5th time the prison sentence will be appropriately long.

  • -2

    badsey3

    I don't think these US bases constitute as being a Japanese business or Japanese property = those claims are patently false.

    I would protest over this -and not at the US bases either.

    He is guilty of unlawful construction. -A rogue builder.

  • 1

    browny1

    Kazuakii - thank you for your comments.

    I'm aware of Yamashiro's history and his previous violations. And I'm also of the opinion that we need to weigh up the criminal severity of his actions and the damage done and the consequential suffering of others.

    I believe his actions to be of immense annoyance to those concerned - but hardly in the realm of Big Crime. Also around the world, and including Japan, there is a level of leeway afforded to demonstrators and conscientious protesters, which can be witnessed at most demonstrations. For example, the right-wing nut cases get away with blue murder in many cases of aggressive protest, as a routine manner.

    And in addition, one point which is clearly stomping on his rights, is the refusal to allow him to meet with family, friends, in fact anyone it seems. His defense reps also have limited access which smacks of police-state heavy handedness.

    No one will convince me that this has not gone on for an overly long period, or that it is not politically motivated to shut up someone the govt. / authorities detest. It all fits into the "silence them" narrative being lived out by Abe & Co.

  • -3

    toshiko

    Why Japan needs US military in Okinawa? NK is not shooting missiles to Okinawa. China and Japan are business partners. If his action of shaking another man is considered violence, Japan needs to prohibit Judo.

  • -5

    gaijin playa

    Lock him up. He's a trouble maker and needs to be punished, just got too much time on is hands and wants to cause trouble

  • -3

    smithinjapan

    "who heads the Okinawa Peace Action Center"

    And yet he commits acts of violence, including assaults on others. Try him and lock him up already.

  • 2

    japan4life

    Sorry to disappoint all of you Okinawa Haters but Mr. Yamashiro was released from jail on bail at 8pm tonight after 5 months of detention which was criticized by Japanese legal experts and international human rights organizations.

  • 1

    toshiko

    @japan info: thanks for newinfo. Glad he is released.

  • -2

    CrucialS

    Okinawa Haters

    I love Okinawa but Yamashiro is a bully and a criminal.

  • 0

    pudus

    "I love Okinawa but Yamashiro is a bully and a criminal."

    "Yamashiro is suspected of piling some 1,480 blocks in front of the gate of Camp Schwab in January 2016 in conspiracy with others to prevent delivery of equipment and materials needed for the relocation work there." The Jn govt' will let him go free, so he can join on to more others who share "their ideology" to band together, become radicalized and rise up like described in the Turner diaries, Camp of saints, and Victoria the 4g w_r,

  • 0

    wowyz

    @ pudus There is a blog, which discusses such issues:

    http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/pepsiman/blog/japanese-anti-americanism-a-byproduct-of-historica/25164/

  • -5

    John-San

    When a country attack another country for no logical reason other then to show force are considered the aggressor. Now when the Aggressor losses. it is usual for the winner to take full control of that land and kill off all opposition. Japan you a very very lucky that this did not happen to you. So count your lucky the rising sun that it is still rising.

  • 0

    socrateos

    Mr. Yamashiro was released from jail on bail at 8pm tonight...

    Well, he still has to face charges and stand in the court to clear himself. Thanks to a recent TV show and YouTube, we now know what his activities look like:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eS4o-CxyjI&t=940s

    A short guy with a pink headband in this video is Hiroji Yamashiro.

  • 1

    idir13013

    @smithinjapan You almost always stand by what is right and fair, with facts and clear thoughts. In this case, I don't get your thinking. How can you not react that the man was basically held over nothing for 5 months? And even if he did injure somebody (doubtful), he was never put in front of a trial for this. The fact that several NGOs including Amnesty were asking for his release is also a strong warning that something was off. He was a political prisoner of Japan Inc, but this time such an obvious wrong-doing by the government has your approval? Enlighten me please.

  • 0

    toshiko

    @Idirt: Japan Inca doesn't include gov't even though it is more powerful than government.

  • -1

    yankinhokkaido

    Protesting something and disagreeing with something is one thing.

    But assaulting people, damaging fences, and blocking roads with bricks -- just because one thinks his/her opinions are so morally superior as to justify such acts -- is another.

    I really don't understand why so many people on the left -- and it's always people on the left -- give themselves permission to take things beyond legal protesting. They agitate, they get physically violent either toward property or toward other people, they disrupt and block and infringe on the rights of others.

    If you want to protest, then fine, protest. But keep your hands to yourselves, keep the roads clear, and don't assume that your opinion on whatever you're protesting is the only morally acceptable one.

  • 0

    toshiko

    It is not effective but verbal protesters do not have to use Judo or Karate. He already spent time in a jail. somit will be credited for his sentence. Is he Okinawa native? The video had yelling with Hyojungo and could hear Dojin, Yabanjin.

  • 2

    browny1

    yankinhokaido- quite a statement that.

    "....... and it's always people on the left -- give themselves permission to take things beyond legal protesting. They agitate, they get physically violent either toward property or toward other people, they disrupt and block and infringe on the rights of others....."

    Either you don't live in Japan or if you do live in Japan you are new here.

    Why? Because the right-wing (esp ultra) fits your description to a T - and until recently they never even received a slap on the wrist.

    And publicly calmly meditating and / or quietly walking is one good form of protest - but the world over, and definitely in Japan, certain levels of civil disobedience have been practiced by protesters that "break the law". Lying in front of bulldozers, chaining selves to fences, holding mock funerals , burning effigies etc etc. I doubt they are all "Leftists"

    I am against disturbingly violent acts of demonstration that have appeared in recent years, esp those of nationalist rightist bents.

  • 0

    ThonTaddeo

    Is he Okinawa native? The video had yelling with Hyojungo and could hear Dojin, Yabanjin.

    "Yamashiro" is a distinctively Okinawan name. You never hear Okinawans using their own language in dealing with mainland government officials; certainly not with cops brought down from Tokyo, who would not understand it. It is natural that he would use the mainland's language in these protests.

  • 1

    toshiko

    Thanks for info. Yamashiro is also mainland Japanese name. I was wondering why someone is calling dojin yabanjin. Also it is very difficult for non Tokyo area to speak with Tokyo accent. Especially Okinawa ben people.

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