Three peace activists on trial for trespassing at a Self-Defense Forces housing compound where they had been distributing antiwar leaflets told the Tokyo High Court on Wednesday their arrest and indictment is a form of political suppression and their case should be dropped.

The woman and two men were arrested in February 2004 on suspicion of trespassing on the SDF’s residential quarters in Tachikawa, western Tokyo. They were distributing leaflets outlining opposition to the SDF deployment in Iraq in mailboxes.

That December, the Tokyo District Court’s Hachioji branch acquitted them, ruling their act was a form of political expression guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. Prosecutors appealed the ruling.

In the opening session of the appellate trial Wednesday, the woman, 32, said people are now afraid to distribute fliers because of the case.

“Freedom of expression is not something given to us, but something we are born with,” she said. “Permitting only parts of (opinions) that are convenient (for the government) should not be tolerated.”

The defendants have been circulating a petition demanding the court dismiss their case. They told the court 14,000 signatures have been collected so far.

Ministry official freed

Kyodo News

The Tokyo District Court has rejected a demand by prosecutors to keep in custody a government official who was arrested when he distributed communist newspapers at a police housing in Tokyo, sources said.

The prosecutors’ appeal against the decision was dismissed and the 57-year-old official of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry was released late Tuesday.

The official was arrested Saturday on suspicion of trespassing at the Tokyo police residential complex. Because he is a government official, he has also been accused of violating the National Public Service Law, which restricts political activities by government employees.

In a similar move, a Social Insurance Agency official was arrested and charged last year for distributing the Japanese Communist Party newspaper in violation of the law.

It was the first time a government official was accused of violating the law since the Supreme Court found a postal worker guilty in 1974 of involvement in an election campaign for a Japan Socialist Party candidate.

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