OSAKA – Embattled researcher Haruko Obokata was injured Wednesday while being hounded by NHK reporters on her way home from the state-affiliated Riken institute, her lawyer said Thursday.
Lawyer Hideo Miki told reporters in Osaka that Obokata, 30, may file a criminal complaint and a damages suit against the public broadcaster. Later in the day, NHK offered an apology, Miki said.
Meanwhile, Riken sent a letter of protest to NHK stating that the reporters’ actions “threatened her safety and human rights.”
An NHK public relations official said the reporters were trying to confirm some facts with the besieged cytologist, who is helping other scientists verify findings her team published in two papers, later retracted, about versatile cells with “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency,” or STAP.
NHK said it would meet with her lawyer to deal with the matter.
The lawyer said Obokata fled to a nearby hotel after being chased by a motorcycle while driving home at around 8 p.m. on Wednesday. At the hotel, four or five reporters and camera crew appeared out of nowhere and began asking her questions in the lobby. She refused to answer them.
Hotel staff helped her escape the reporters, but she was apparently injured in the ensuing scuffle and diagnosed with a sprained neck and right elbow that will take about two weeks to heal. Her lawyer said the stressed-out scientist also had been dealt a severe psychological shock from the incident.
“The injury to my right hand will hinder the experiments. It’s very frustrating,” Obokata was quoted as saying Thursday.
Later on Thursday, the lawyer revealed that NHK’s chief editor and others came to his office around noon to apologize for the incident and said the reporters had gone “too far.”
Obokata will continue to take part in the verification experiments, he said.