Redress awarded over ‘Yokohama Incident’

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) The Yokohama District Court ordered the government Thursday to pay compensation to the relatives of five now-deceased men for falsely imprisoning them in the “Yokohama Incident,” often described as Japan’s worst case of repression of free speech during the war.

Presiding Judge Takaaki Oshima ordered the government to pay a total of about ¥47 million to the relatives of the five, as sought by them, under a 1950 criminal compensation law that requires the government to pay compensation to criminal defendants who are found not guilty.

Thursday’s decision is deemed a de facto acquittal because when the court dismissed the retrial case of one of the five last March without judging him guilty or not guilty, it said his dignity would be restored if the government compensated him for false imprisonment.

The three-judge panel ruled that the wartime “tokko” thought, or political, police launched a one-sided, speculative investigation that prosecutors and judges endorsed.

The police, the prosecution and the court all bear heavy responsibility for the outcome, it said. In the decision, Oshima accused the political police of conducting an “illegal” investigation, including the torture of suspects.

The five defendants were convicted in August and September 1945 of procommunist activities based on the wartime Peace Preservation Law.

They were Yasuhito Ono, an editor at Kaizo (Reform) magazine, Toru Kimura, an editor at Chuokoron (Central Review) magazine, Toshio Hiradate, a researcher at the now-defunct South Manchuria Railways Co., Eizaburo Kobayashi, an employee of the Kaizo publishing house, and Hiroshi Yoshida, a former employee of Furukawa Electric Co.

The relatives said the case was fabricated by the political police and their confessions were coerced through torture.

The court dismissed the Ono retrial bid last March without giving any verdict, while the Supreme Court dismissed the retrials of the four others in March 2008. Kin of the five filed a suit with the district court in April-May last year demanding some ¥47 million.