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The Supreme Court overturned an earlier high court decision Monday, ruling that the 1986 arrest of a Korean resident in Kyoto over his refusal to be fingerprinted was not illegal.

The top court backed an appeal by the national and Kyoto prefectural governments, which claimed that the arrest of Yon Chang-Yul, a second-generation Korean resident from Kyoto, was justifiable.

Yon, 42, filed a civil lawsuit in May 1986 against the national and prefectural governments and a police officer, seeking 1 million yen in damages over his arrest, which he claimed was unjust and unnecessary.

In February 1985, Yon refused to have his fingerprints taken when he renewed his alien registration. Police summoned him five times to have his fingerprints taken, but he refused, saying he would state his claims in court.

Yon was arrested in April 1986 and indicted on charges of violating the Alien Registration Law. He was acquitted in March 1989 under an amnesty decree issued after the death of Emperor Showa, and his amnesty has been finalized.

In Monday’s ruling, the top court said the possibility of Yon escaping or destroying evidence of his fingerprinting refusal is low, but added that “it cannot be deemed that his arrest was unnecessary,” citing his repeated rejections of police summons.

In March 1992, the Kyoto District Court dismissed his demands for compensation. But in a landmark ruling in October 1994, the Osaka High Court awarded Yon 400,000 yen, saying it was obvious to police that Yon would not flee or destroy evidence, and therefore the arrest was illegal.

The high court also ruled that the Alien Registration Law might have been unconstitutional when Yon rejected the requirement in 1985. The law was revised in 1992, exempting permanent residents from the fingerprinting requirement.

The national and Kyoto governments had been appealing the high court ruling.

After the ruling, Yon expressed disappointment. “I have fought in court for nearly 13 years, and the ruling (the portion the Supreme Court read out in court) was less than 10 seconds long,” he said. “I feel it ended so quickly.”

Yon added that he is worried about the negative image the ruling will have on him and his family, citing a flood of hate mail and phone calls he received when his case was rejected by a district court.

“After my high court victory, people sent me telegraphs commending me,” he said. “People look at you as a criminal when you are arrested. (Now that I lost again,) I am nervous how the views of the society might change for the worse again.”

His lawyers denounced the ruling, saying it failed to address the fundamental aspects of the case. “The court failed to answer his most basic question, that is, how can someone born and raised in Japan, just like any other Japanese, be forced to be fingerprinted and be arrested if they refused?”

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