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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 September 14 - 20  > Campaign launched for inclusion of Matsukawa Incident data in Memory of World Register
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2016 September 14 - 20 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Campaign launched for inclusion of Matsukawa Incident data in Memory of World Register

September 14, 2016
A group of intellectuals has recently launched a campaign to have materials related to the 1949 Matsukawa Incident added to the UNESCO Memory of World Register list.

The group, as of today, consists of 257 people such as persons involved, the former and present presidents of Fukushima University, scholars, researchers, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists, and film directors.

Fifty-three years ago on September 12, the Supreme Court handed down a not guilty verdict for defendants in the incident. The Matsukawa Incident involved the sabotage-derailment of a train in Fukushima Prefecture in April 1949 when Japan was still under U.S. military occupation. The government of Japan and the U.S. occupation force, for the purpose of weakening the labor movements and the Japanese Communist Party which gained considerable support in that year’s general election, framed 20 innocent workers for the “derailment”.

It was one of the largest frame-ups committed by state power in postwar Japan. Top police executives and prosecutors together fabricated evidence while knowing that the 20 workers who were accused of the crime were innocent. The “law enforcement” authorities instead concealed the truth and drew up a fictional scenario to frame the 20 men as criminals. It was an indisputable crime committed by state power.

All defendants were found guilty in the first and second trials, and sentenced to either death or life in prison. However, the demand against capital punishment of innocent persons became stronger and louder. Labor unions started to offer support to the 20 to help free them and the demand for their release spread throughout Japan. Literary support by several famous novelists also greatly contributed to mobilizing public opinion.

Amid the mounting mass movement, the material evidence buried by prosecutors was discovered. The unearthed documents proved their innocence. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled all of the defendants to be not guilty and condemned the criminal abuse of power.

A large volume of important records and materials regarding the trials and the nationwide movement at that time have been preserved at Fukushima University. The materials include letters from prison, notes establishing without doubt the alibi of a death-row inmate, a written request jointly signed by prominent cultural figures, including novelist Shiga Naoya, and a report by judicial research officials of the Supreme Court.

The 257 public figures are now active in informing a wide range of citizens as well as local municipalities in Fukushima of the Matsukawa Incident and of the significance of the valuable related data. They aim to have the materials designated as a UNESCO Memory of World Register in 2019.

Past related article:
> National rally marking Matsukawa Incident’s 60th anniversary [October 18, 19, 2009]
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