Court rejects claim to U.S. night flight halt, with 2.8 billion yen in lieu

In a lawsuit filed by 5,541 residents in Okinawa over noise from U.S. Kadena Air Base, Naha District Court on February 17 ordered payment of 2.8 billion yen for the damage but rejected the request to a halt to night flights.

The suit was filed against the U.S. and Japanese governments. The court rejected the demand for a night flight halt "because it seeks to halt an act by a third party" outside the Japanese government's jurisdiction.

The ruling said that 2.8 billion yen should be paid to 3,881 residents living in areas where the noise index reads 85 and over. Akahata of February 18 pointed out that the areas covered by compensation is narrowed because base noise lawsuits in the past used an index reading of 75 as a benchmark for compensation. The amount of compensation, however, is the highest ever in comparison to similar base noise suits.

About 75 percent of U.S. military facilities are concentrated in Okinawa Prefecture. The ruling had to admit that it is difficult to live in places not affected by base noise. For all that, the court rejects residents' earnest wishes for quiet nights with a halt to night flights.

Ikemiyagi Toshio, chief lawyer for the plaintiffs, criticized the judgment as the "worst court decision" compared to similar cases. He said that he suspects that it is based on political calculation because recognition of health damage would require suspension of night flights and would adversely affect the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty system. He deplored what seemed to him as a lack of conscience on the part of the judges. (end)

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