‘Yokohama Incident’ appeals dismissed

Relatives to turn to Supreme Court in quest to clear men's names

by Setsuko Kamiya

The Tokyo High Court on Friday dismissed appeals brought by the relatives of five men convicted in the so-called Yokohama Incident, the nation’s worst case of repression of journalistic freedom during the war.

The high court supported a lower court decision that the case had to be terminated because the five men had been given a general amnesty after the war and the anticommunist law under which they were charged had been abolished.

The relatives of the five, who are all deceased, were seeking a retrial to clear their names. They claim the five were wrongfully charged because they were tortured into confessing.

After being rejected by the lower court, they appealed to the high court, believing the lower court’s decision was undermining their attempt to win redemption for those wrongfully convicted.

Immediately after the ruling Friday, lawyers for the group appealed to the Supreme Court, stating that the high court’s decision violates the Constitution, which gives people the right to a fair trial.

Maki Kimura, fighting on behalf of her husband, Toru, who was an editor at Chuo Koron magazine before he was convicted, said she was determined to fight to the end.

“I’m not here to seek mercy (for my husband), but I’m doing this for the justice system to apologize for the mistake it has made,” Kimura, 57, said. “We’re going to fight this all the way to prove that we are right.”

In his decision, presiding Judge Fumihiro Abe said that termination of the case has freed the accused from criminal procedures, and that they were no longer subject to any punishment. Therefore, seeking a retrial to win acquittals would not benefit the defendants, the judge said.

Relatives and lawyers of the defendants disagreed.

“The judge’s voice was so small that I could hardly hear sometimes, but if he knew he was right, he would have read out loud for everyone to hear,” Kimura said.

Toru Kimura and the four other men named in the retrial — Toshio Hiradate, Kenjiro Takagi, Eizaburo Kobayashi and Hiroshi Yoshida — were convicted in August and September 1945 of promoting communism in violation of the Peace Preservation Law, which was abolished after the war.

Their case was part of the Yokohama Incident, in which about 60 people, including journalists and editors, were arrested and convicted for similar charges. After the war, “special police” officials who investigated them were convicted for assault and bodily injury caused by torture.

The five men had been demanding a retrial since 1986, claiming they were wrongfully charged after investigators tortured them to get confessions. Although the five are dead, their relatives continue to petition for retrial.

Their 1998 petition prompted the Yokohama District Court to reopen the case in April 2003. The decision was upheld by the Tokyo High Court in March 2005.

However, the district court terminated the trial in February 2006 and did not rule on their guilt or innocence. The appeal trial in Tokyo opened in November 2005, but evidence presented in the lower court was not reinvestigated.