YOKOHAMA – The Yokohama District Court reopened proceedings Tuesday on the “Yokohama Incident,” often described as Japan’s worst case of repression of free speech during the war.
The one-day session came after the court accepted a petition last October for a retrial filed by relatives of the late Yasuhito Ono, a member of the editorial staff of Kaizo (Reform) magazine. He was among about 60 people arrested between 1942 and 1945 for breaching the Peace Preservation Law aimed at cracking down on communist and antiwar sentiment.
The defense team planned to seek an acquittal for Ono on grounds that he was tortured by special political police into making false confessions. Prosecutors were expected to ask the court to dismiss the case because the law and the charges involved are now defunct.
In its decision to retry the case, the court indicated doubt over the credibility of Ono’s confessions, determining there was “new evidence that could help the court hand down a not-guilty verdict.”
However, speculation ran high that the court would dismiss the case against the backdrop of a Supreme Court decision last March to terminate a retrial, without a verdict, of another five men convicted in the Yokohama Incident.
Based on the law of criminal procedure, the Supreme Court said, “A court is obliged to terminate court deliberations in the event of an abolishment of penalty or if an amnesty is granted, and no appeal may be filed against a decision for such termination.”
Ono was arrested in 1943 for publishing an article promoting communism and in September 1945 was given a suspended two-year prison term.
The retrial petition, filed in March 2002, was the fourth such request presented by surviving relatives of people convicted in the case.
The Yokohama Incident refers to a series of repressive measures carried out by the special police against more than 60 people who allegedly published procommunist articles in Kaizo during the war.
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