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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 June 18 - 24  > Top Court approves SLAPP suit seeking to defeat residents’ opposition to US helipad construction in Okinawa
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2014 June 18 - 24 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

Top Court approves SLAPP suit seeking to defeat residents’ opposition to US helipad construction in Okinawa

June 20, 2014
It has come to light that in the so-called “SLAPP” lawsuit filed by the state over local protests against the construction of U.S. helipads in the Takae district in Okinawa’s Higashi Village, the Supreme Court recently rejected an appeal from a defendant.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau in 2008 requested the Naha District Court Nago Branch to issue a temporary injunction against Isa Masatsugu and 14 Takae residents, claiming that their sit-in protest is obstructing access to the construction site for a new U.S. military facility. The following year, Isa and another defendant received an injunction to stop obstruction. Following the injunction, the state brought these two to trial for impeding the construction in the Naha District Court. The court ordered only Isa to stop interference while dismissing the case against the other defendant. The high court upheld the lower court order and Isa appealed to the Supreme Court.

This state tactic for dealing with Takae residents’ protest actions received criticism from Okinawan people as a typical strategic lawsuits used by the state to overcome public opposition, or SLAPP, aiming to intimidate and silence civil movements opposing state policies.

Isa pointed out that the top court adopted a position supporting the Abe government rush to construct a new U.S. base in Okinawa’s Henoko district and pave the way for Japan to implement the collective self-defense right.

Anti-helipad residents and their lawyers issued a statement condemning the top court decision as extremely unjust.

The Japan Peace Committee on June 18 released a strong protest statement.

In the statement, the organization criticized the top court for rubber-stamping the state’s strategy for restricting people’s right to freedom of speech in regard to public issues by instilling fear of future litigation in their minds. It expressed its determination to work hard to put a halt to the helipad construction in solidarity with Okinawan people.

Past related articles:
> High court rules resident’s protest as ‘obstructing’ US helipad construction [June 26, 2013]
> Takae resident ‘obstructs’ US helipads construction: court [March 15, 2012]
> Okinawa Defense Bureau sues anti-U.S. helipad villagers [January 31, 2009]
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