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High court reverses lower court ruling disfranchising a JCP member


   The Fukuoka High Court on September 7 overturned a district court ruling that had given a 3-year disfranchisement to a Japanese Communist Party member of a city assembly charged with violating the Public Officers Elections Law, and handed down another ruling that imposes on him a fine of 150,000 yen.


   Oishi Tadaaki, an assembly member of Bungo Takada City in Oita Prefecture, distributed newsletters to JCP supporters before the announcement of the city assembly election in April 2003, and was arrested and prosecuted on charges of violating the POEL that prohibits door-to-door canvassing, distribution of documents not stipulated in the law, and pre-election campaigning.


   Judge Torai Yasuo of the high court read the decision, saying, gTo the accused who has contributed to local communities through his activities as a Bungo Takada City Assembly member for more than 30 years, it is too heavy and inappropriate to suspend his civil rights.h


   Oishifs legal team claimed his innocence by asserting that prohibition of door-to-door canvassing and restrictions on document distribution run counter to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


   The judge, however, ruled that the regulation in question in not in violation of the U.N. covenant.


   The legal team immediately appealed to the Supreme Court, insisting that gthe reality of election calls for freedom of speech and the use of documents in campaigning.h


   Speaking at a rally held with 300 supporters gathering from 21 prefectures throughout Japan, Oishi after the high court ruling said, gYour support and movement contributed to a victory that removes my disfranchisement and defends a JCP seat in the assembly.h


   More than 100,000 signatures calling for his ginnocenceh have been so far collected across Japan.


   Oishi, despite the lower court guilty verdict, won the city assembly election in February, receiving a record-high vote in this cityfs election history, following the previous election.


   In Japan, such regulations on election campaigning as prohibition of door-to-door canvassing have remained since 1925 when Japan was under monarchical rule. They are unreasonable regulations from an international perspective.


   During the trial, Oishi repeatedly declared, gI will be a plaintiff calling for the Public Officers Elections Law to be reviewed and the freedom of election campaign to be expanded.h


   Next year, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights comprehensively stipulating human rights, including freedom of speech, will establish a watchdog committee, and Oishi plans to make known to the world his case that infringed on the freedom of speech.                - Akahata, September 8, 2007

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