The Gunma Prefectural authority has appealed to the upper court on the trial over the monument which recollects Koreans mobilized forcibly to work during wartime. The district court recently ruled that the decision made by the prefectural government should be revoked that had denied permission of keeping the facility in the park. A group of plaintiffs challenged, too, to defend the right of expression in the second round of trial.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS THREATENED
The trial has been fought over the monument located in the public park, Gunma-no-Mori (=Forest of Gunma) in Takasaki City. It is to remember Korean laborers who died after taken to the prefecture with force during the last war. The prefectural authority did not allow in 2014, after ten years of erection, the civic group to maintain the facility. Therefore, the latter, which has taken care of the monument, brought a lawsuit to cancel the decision.
Court Criticized Deviation of Discretionary Power
The Maebashi District Court handed a ruling February 14 to demand the prefectural authority to withdraw the decision on the ground of its deviation of discretionary power. The prefecture office had insisted that part of the memory ceremony was regarded as ‘political’. The civic group holds an annual event in front of the monument and the prefecture side regards that its agenda are against the condition of monument construction. Under the circumstances the citizens’ body proposed an alternative program, including a voluntary restraint. The court ruled that the prefecture side did not pay sincere attention to the new plans to lead to disapproval of extension.
The prefectural authority appealed to the upper court after the ruling, saying ‘if the prefecture accepts the civic group’s claim despite breach of the erection conditions, a contradictory situation will emerge’. The group cordially asked the local body not to appeal, which ended in vain. It appealed to the upper court, too, so that it can contest on the freedom of expression, the major point that the district court rejected. The ruling says that ‘establishment of the monument is not totally free of any restriction’, turning down the allegation of plaintiffs.
What does ‘political comment’ mean?
The monument was erected in 2004 by a civic group, which has become a today’s body, the Association of Protection of Monument, in accordance with the park’s rule not to honor the dead in a religious and political context. The inscription says ‘Remembrance, Reflection and Friendship’. Later in 2014 the authority prohibited to extend a period of display on the ground that participants had commented politically, using a phrase of ‘forced labor’ during the ceremony.
Lawyer Tsunoda Giichi of the Association, the head of defendant lawyers, told; ‘it has no sense that the court regards the phrase ‘forced mobilization’ as political. It has historic validity. Freedom of expression will be a point of contention in the High Court. It must be appreciated’.
Rightwing Forces are Hidden Behind
The prefecture side did not permit renewal because it was pressured by right-wing forces and mass media. A right-wing organization presented a letter to the local assembly, Petition to Revoke Permission of Maintaining Monument, in March, 2014, accusing that the ceremonial events breached the terms of construction. The petition was adopted by members of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito in the local assembly. The Sankei Shinbun newspaper repeatedly put articles to criticize the monument. A rightwing satellite TV channel broadcast special programs of condemnation, too.
Let’s look at trials which dispute in the so-called ‘political neutrality’. The authority of Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, prohibited hosting a citizens’ rally against a parade of troops of the Self Defense Forces of Japan. The Kanazawa District Court ruled in 2016 that the rally breached neutrality of the municipality. The plaintiffs lost.
As for the Saitama City’s case, the district court ordered the city authority to pay the plaintiff compensation in 2017: a lady contributed a piece of Haiku poetry on Article Nine of Constitution to the local newsletter published by a public hall. Her Haiku was abandoned. She put a legal battle against the Saitama City authority.
To the rainy sky of June,
Women shout in the parade,
‘Defend Article Nine’
March 13, 2018