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Japanese court upholds damages over domestic intelligence gathering

Kyodo

The Sendai High Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that awarded damages to people whose identities were recorded by a Self-Defense Force intelligence unit during a protest over Japan’s involvement in the Iraq War.

The rally was held to oppose the dispatch of SDF personnel to Iraq. Officials noted the names and affiliations of people who took part — an illegal act, the plaintiffs argued.

But the Sendai High Court rejected the plaintiffs’ call for a suspension of intelligence activities by the SDF and only awarded one of the 94 individuals damages — a sum of ¥100,000.

The unnamed individual’s “privacy was violated” by the SDF unit that recorded his or her name and occupation, even though that information was not made public, presiding Judge Masato Furukubo said.

The Sendai District Court in 2012 ordered the government to pay a total of ¥300,000 to five people in recognition that officials violated their rights by collecting their names, occupations, political affiliations and other details between 2002 and 2004. It threw out calls to halt intelligence-gathering activities.

The high court rejected the payment of damages to four other plaintiffs who were local assembly members at the time.

Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said he couldn’t comment but pledged to review the ruling “thoroughly and respond accordingly.”

The suit was filed by 107 people from Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures. They each sought ¥1 million in compensation.

Both sides appealed the lower court ruling, with the government arguing that the intelligence activities were appropriate. The plaintiffs sought damages for all of them and demanded suspension of the activities.

The case went to court after the Japanese Communist Party published in 2007 what it said were internal documents of the SDF showing pictures of rallies and participants, along with detailed information about local assembly members who had called for resolutions against the SDF being dispatched to Iraq.