NAHA, Okinawa Pref. – The Fukuoka High Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling rejecting a demand by Okinawa residents to have a former commander of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station stop nighttime and early morning flights and compensate them for aircraft noise damage.
Some 400 residents near the air base in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, had sought 630 million yen in compensation from the Japanese government and Richard Lueking, former commander of the base. But the Naha District Court dismissed the plea last September.
Presiding Judge Masahiko Kubota of the high court’s Naha branch said, as in the lower court ruling, that civil court jurisdiction extends to the U.S. commander as an individual. But he rejected the residents’ claim that the commander should be held responsible for damages as an individual.
“The Japanese state is held liable for compensation for acts against law by constituent members of the U.S. military while on duty,” the judge said, citing the State Redress Law and special civil law provisions associated with the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement.
The lawsuit is the first in which a U.S. commander was individual defendant.
According to the two laws, when U.S. military officers cause damage to other people during their duties, only the Japanese government is responsible for compensation.
The plaintiffs claimed the ex-commander failed to prevent noise from disturbing daily life.
Some of the plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the high court’s Naha branch, and the 10 in the high court case said they will consider filing an appeal.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi asked three Cabinet members Thursday to complete an interim report on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan by the end of October.
Work on the issue was suspended for about a month for the Sept. 11 election.
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