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Supporters of protesters who were arrested for obstruction of justice during a rally against the government’s security legislation demanded Friday that they be released immediately and decried their “unjust arrest.”

As of Friday afternoon, five protesters who took part in the Sept. 16 rally, organized as a last-ditch effort against the controversial security bills rammed through the Diet last Saturday, were still in custody at different police stations, their lawyer and supporters said.

A total of 13 participants were arrested that day, including university students. They were accused of obstructing police activities, such as by elbowing or head-butting officers, but some denied any wrongdoing, saying they never even touched the officers, said lawyer Yoshito Sakata, who has spoken to several of the detainees.

Supporters say it was the police who resorted to force during the demonstration by repeatedly shoving people back onto the sidewalk and ignoring their calls to clear the main road. They even dragged and kicked one of the students before arresting him, they alleged.

Such behavior underlines an intention by police to oppress the voices of the public, Sakata said.

Student activist Daisuke Motoki, whose friend was among those arrested and released Friday afternoon, agreed.

“The violent attitude by the police is their message that we have no freedom of assembly. I believe the police arrested the participants because they wanted to showcase them,” said Motoki, one of the four students who went on a hunger strike from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2 to protest the security bills near the Diet.

His friend, who also participated in the hunger strike but asked to remain anonymous, told The Japan Times after being released that he had been arrested on suspicion of sabotaging police activities by pushing one of the officers in the back. But the accusation was trumped up, the 19-year-old said, noting he never actively interfered with the police.

The student said that, during his week-long detention, he was interrogated for an average of six hours a day.

“Instead of asking me about my behavior at the rally, they kept telling me to quit my political activities and focus instead on my studies at university,” the student said.

A Metropolitan Police Department officer asked about the arrests declined to comment.

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