SAPPORO (Kyodo) The Sapporo District Court ordered a Hokkaido newspaper, two of its reporters and two publishers Monday to pay damages to a former senior police officer for defaming him over the prefectural force’s systematic misappropriation of funds.

Presiding Judge Mitsuhiro Takeda told Hokkaido Shimbun Press, the reporters, and Kodansha Ltd. and Junposha Co., which published the books in which the defamation appeared, to pay a combined ¥720,000 in compensation to Tomoyoshi Sasaki, former head of the prefectural police’s administrative department.

Redress for a Kodansha book titled “Pursuing Suspicion of Hokkaido Police Fund Misuse” amounted to ¥600,000, while the remaining ¥120,000 was for a Junposha book titled “Arrest Senior Police Officers.”

Published in 2004, the books are based on reports by the Sapporo-based daily.

Sasaki, who has claimed the books cited misinformation that he was reprimanded by the prefectural police chief, sought ¥6 million in damages and a printed apology.

Takeda said that articles by the Hokkaido newspaper “lack grounds that convince readers to believe they are true.”

But he said it is unnecessary for the defendant to publish an apology and recall the books because the defamation constituted only a small part of the publications.

The paper has stood by its reports and claimed Sasaki filed the libel suit to block criticism of police.

Takanobu Yoshioka, chief of the Hokkaido Shimbun’s news headquarters, said the newspaper will appeal.

Junposha President Hiroyasu Kiuchi also indicated the publisher will appeal the ruling. He said the district court ruling requires the publisher to verify what is written in a book, but that such a requirement would make publication almost impossible.

Sasaki, the former senior officer, said it is “no wonder” the court found the articles untrue and urged the Hokkaido Shimbun and its reporters to “report the truth” from now on.

Meanwhile, the court dismissed the same day a damages claim filed against Sasaki by journalist Akihiro Otani and writer Manabu Miyazaki, who authored the Junposha book with the two Hokkaido Shimbun reporters. Otani and Miyazaki had said Sasaki defamed them by maintaining that their book was a “fabrication.”

The Hokkaido Shimbun ran a series of investigative reports from November 2003 on the systematic misappropriation of funds through fraudulent accounting practices by Hokkaido police. The police later admitted to the allegations and repaid about ¥960 million to the coffers of the central and prefectural governments.

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