National / Crime & Legal

Tokyo High Court dismisses journalist's case against Syria travel ban

Kyodo

The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling supporting a Foreign Ministry order requiring a Japanese freelance photographer to surrender his passport because he would likely find himself in danger if he traveled to war-torn Syria for work.

In the lawsuit, Yuichi Sugimoto, 60, claimed that the order was an infringement of his right to freedom of travel and of the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Constitution. The lower Tokyo District Court dismissed the case in April.

“Freedom of travel can be restricted for the sake of public welfare” although it is a basic human right assured by the Constitution, presiding Judge Toshimasa Fukami said.

The ministry’s decision was reasonable as his travel potentially put him at risk of confinement and could have affected the government and relevant organizations, the judge noted.

Sugimoto told reporters after the ruling that he will appeal to the Supreme Court.

“It is disrespectful that we have to surrender our passports just because we would likely bother the state,” he said.

According to the ruling, the ministry ordered Sugimoto to give up his passport in February 2015. The decision came after an assessment that he would very likely be in danger as he had planned to travel to Syria immediately following the murder of two Japanese hostages held in the country by the Islamic State group.

The case was the first time the ministry used the passport law to confiscate travel documents in order to protect an individual, the government said.

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