The Tokyo High Court on Thursday upheld a suspended prison term for a former officer in the Maritime Self-Defense Force convicted of leaking defense secrets linked to the U.S.-developed Aegis air defense system.
Presiding Judge Manabu Yamazaki turned down the appeal by Sumitaka Matsuuchi, 36, a former lieutenant commander cashiered from the MSDF last December.
Matsuuchi was found guilty of copying data on the Aegis radar system to his personal computer in May 2002 from an MSDF computer and passing a CD containing the data to another MSDF lieutenant commander that August.
The Yokohama District Court found Matsuuchi guilty in October 2008 of violating the Law on the Protection of Secrets for the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, and sentenced him to two years and six months in prison, suspended for four years.
During the high court battle, Matsuuchi’s legal team called for a not-guilty verdict, arguing the law is intended to crack down on espionage and that by passing information to a fellow officer he had done nothing illegal.
Prosecutors had asked the high court to reject Matsuuchi’s appeal.
The district court said his acts could damage national security. It also said the MSDF failed to manage defense secrets properly.
Matsuuchi’s case was unearthed after the Kanagawa Prefectural Police arrested the Chinese wife of an MSDF petty officer second class in January 2007 on suspicion of violating immigration regulations.
When investigators searched the petty officer’s home, they seized evidence that included data on the Aegis system.
In December that year, the police and the MSDF’s police unit arrested Matsuuchi and filed an investigative report with prosecutors on four other MSDF members without detaining them.
Matsuuchi was the one who faced criminal charges.
The Defense Ministry said last year its own investigation found two channels of leaks involving a total of 38 people.
In talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in April 2007, then Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma apologized over the Aegis leak.