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Lawyer challenges secrets law

Kyodo

A lawyer filed a lawsuit Thursday against the government, seeking a court ruling that the recently enacted state secrets law, which imposes stricter penalties on leakers of state secrets, runs against the Constitution.

Katsumi Fujimori, who belongs to the Shizuoka Bar Association, filed the suit with the Shizuoka District Court against the government and its legal representative, Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki.

Fujimori wants the court to rule that the new law runs counter to the national charter, which guarantees freedom of thought, and is invalid, seeking to prevent the law from coming into force.

He told reporters that his lawsuit is the first in Japan seeking a court decision on the invalidity of the state secrets law.

The law runs against the Constitution, which stipulates that “freedom of thought and conscience shall not be violated,” Fujimori said, noting that the coverage of state secrecy might be expanded under the new law.

The Diet enacted the state secrets law last Dec. 7. The government promulgated the law on Dec. 13 and aims to put the law into effect after a one-year preparation period.

In the 22-page-long suit, the lawyer said the government might be able to designate any information as coming under the state secrets law in the name of clamping down on terrorists and espionage activities.

He also said the ruling coalition forced the law through the Diet, ignoring the opposition camp’s calls for an independent oversight system to ensure the public’s right to know.

Under the state secrets law, leakers of special secrets, such as information on diplomacy, defense, counterterrorism and counterespionage, will face up to 10 years in prison. Those who instigate leaks will get a maximum term of five years.

Fujimori said he hopes similar suits will be filed and that people will be passionate about discussing the matter.