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The Tokyo District Court ruled Thursday that the Justice Ministry was wrong to reject an application for refugee status by an Afghan man fearing possible racial discrimination and persecution because he belongs to an ethnic minority.

Presiding Judge Masayuki Fujiyama repealed the ministry decision and the justice minister’s decision to deport him, saying it is reasonable to assume the man could be subject to persecution, as under the deposed Taliban government, if he returns to Afghanistan.

“It was a grave error and illegal to decide against granting refugee status when he deserved it,” he said.

According to the court, the man illegally entered Japan aboard a freighter around July 2001 and applied for refugee status in August the same year. The application was rejected.

Just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, the man was detained by the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau. He has since been released on probation.

The man told the court that the Taliban had killed his younger sister and persecuted him through confinement on two occasions. Fujiyama acknowledged the testimony as reasonable, saying, “It was unjustifiable (for the ministry’s Immigration Bureau) to reach the hasty conclusion that the man came to Japan to look for a job, without solid evidence.”

Lawyers for the man welcomed the ruling as a landmark decision, and urged the state not to appeal and instead make efforts to reflect the points in the ruling in current policies toward refugees.

About 30 similar cases involving refugee status applications from Afghans are pending before the Tokyo District Court alone. Last March, the Osaka District Court ruled in favor of an Afghan man and repealed a decision not to grant him refugee status. But the Osaka High Court overturned the decision on Feb. 10.

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