The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday rejected half of a lawsuit filed by 92 women accusing Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara of slandering them in comments about a separate court case regarding his sexist comments.
The plaintiffs, who also took part in a lawsuit in 2003 demanding compensation from Ishihara for calling women “babaa” (old hags), claimed the governor insulted their legal action by denouncing the suit as a “mere performance” at a news conference in 2005. They were demanding an apology, deletion of Ishihara’s transcripts from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s home page, and 110,000 yen each in compensation.
But presiding Judge Shin Takano ruled that Ishihara’s remark on the lawsuit was made as a public official, and that the plaintiffs have no right to demand compensation from him as an individual.
“Even if the comment by the defendant caused damage to the plaintiffs, the metropolitan government — rather than the governor himself — should be liable for compensation,” the judge said.
The suit was filed against both the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Tokyo Gov. Ishihara. Tuesday’s ruling touched only the part dealing with the outspoken nationalist governor; court proceedings on the demands being made of the metro government are continuing.
“Although the ruling denied that Ishihara was responsible for his comments as an individual, it did not exempt him from liability as the governor of Tokyo,” said Mami Nakano, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit, filed last April, is a followup to one against Ishihara in 2003 by 131 plaintiffs offended by his disparaging comments. That suit was rejected in September 2005 by the Tokyo High Court, which upheld a lower court ruling and said Ishihara’s comments “made the plaintiffs uncomfortable” but did not violate the plaintiffs’ rights.
The comment was published in a magazine in 2001. The governor, quoting a passage from a book written by college professor Takafumi Matsui, said the most harmful thing civilization has given birth to are babaa. Matsui claimed Ishihara used the passage out of context.