Court rejects residents' claim for U.S. commander to pay damages for aircraft noise

The Naha District Court on September 16 turned down a lawsuit by a group of 400 residents for compensation from the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station commander for aircraft noise.

In the nation's first lawsuit against a U.S. base commander, Presiding Judge Iida Kyoji said that Marine Corps Col. Richard Lueking can be sued in general terms but cannot be held responsible for the noise caused by U.S. military aircraft.

The judge said that the Japanese government has the responsibility for compensating for any damage caused by U.S. military personnel to others in accordance with the special civil law related to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.

The plaintiffs immediately appealed the decision to the Fukuoka High Court.

Arakaki Tsutomu, the lawyer for the residents, criticized the district court for dismissing the lawsuit without asking Lueking to respond to the charge. "This is no less than a flagrant violation of the basic rules of the country ruled by law," he said.

Shimada Zenji, the residents' group leader, said, "We are just angry. Even after the U.S. Marines helicopter crash, the court does not realize what the real problem is. I must say that this is negligence of responsibilities on the part of the court." (end)

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