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HOME  > Past issues  > 2009 October 14 - 20  > National rally marking Matsukawa Incident’s 60th anniversary
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2009 October 14 - 20 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

National rally marking Matsukawa Incident’s 60th anniversary

October 18, 19, 2009
About 1,200 people attended a rally on October 17-18 to mark the 60th anniversary of one of the most serious postwar crimes allegedly committed by the state, known as the Matsukawa Incident.

The Matsukawa Incident occurred in April 17, 1949, on the railway tracks between the Matsukawa and Kanayagawa stations of the Tohoku line in northeast Honshu. Train cars derailed, killing three railroad men and injuring eight passengers.

Police and prosecutors arrested twenty workers who were unionists of the then Japan National Railway and Toshiba Corp., an electric appliances maker, and falsely accused them of plotting the train derailment.

At that time, Japan was under U.S. military occupation, and a series of frame-ups took place, including the Shimoyama incident and the Mitaka incident, both involving “sabotage” on railways. The government wasted no time in suppressing the railway workers’ union and the Japanese Communist Party.

The arrested workers were convicted by both district and high courts. Some of them were sentenced to death. However, in the course of the trials, it came to light that the police and prosecutors had forced defendants to confess to the crime, buried evidence materials, and coerced them to make false statements.

Claims of innocent by the defendants won support from many people, including writer Hirotsu Kazuo, who formed a national council on the Matsukawa Incident. Thanks to their extensive and tenacious efforts, the Supreme Court in 1963 ruled all of the defendants not guilty.

The rally to mark the 60th anniversary of the incident took place at Fukushima University in Fukushima City near the incident site. Participants included former defendants, their families, lawyers, and citizens involved with the case.

On behalf of the organizing committee, Daigaku Hajime, the director of the organizing committee for the event, stated, “The crux of the matter in this movement is the effort to form unity to prevent innocent people from being killed and to not condone any crimes against humanity. Our task is to make these efforts known to millions of people.”

Matsumoto Zenmei, one of the defense lawyers in the Matsukawa Incident and former Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Representatives, said, “Our campaign is unprecedented in that it successfully attracted public support strong enough to expose the false charges associated with political motives. It is an internationally renowned struggle in defense of human rights.”

On behalf of the six former defendants who are still alive, Suzuki Makoto, 89, stated, “I’m determined to devote the rest of my life to help to create a democratic Japan.” His wife Yaeko said, “How can I believe that my husband, who had been struggling against the dismissals of railway workers even at the cost of our daily living, was involved in the killing of his fellow workers?”

Ibe Masayuki, professor emeritus of Fukushima University and Otsuka Kazuo, former chief lawyer of the trial, also made speeches.

The rally ended after adopting an appeal: “Remember the Matsukawa Incident! Unidentified conspirators and the whole of the incident must be revealed,” and adjourned. - Akahata, October 18, 19, 2009
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