Court tells Japan's government to pay damages to prize-winning author held and illegally arrested after Okinawa base protest


The Naha District Court on Tuesday ordered the central government to pay ¥80,000 in damages to an award-winning author who was detained for entering a restricted area while protesting in Okinawa Prefecture.

Shun Medoruma, 58, was held in U.S. custody for eight hours on April 1, 2016, after canoeing into the restricted area off the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nago. The central government plans to build a facility at the site to take over the functions of the Marine Corps’ Futenma air station also in Okinawa.

Medoruma, who won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1997, was arrested under a special law within the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement after being transferred to Japanese custody. He was not prosecuted.

In the damages lawsuit, Medoruma sought damages of ¥1.2 million from the central government, saying he had been held in custody unjustly.

Presiding Judge Kaoru Hirayama said it would have been possible for Japan Coast Guard officers to accept the transfer of the author from the U.S. military into Japanese custody within two hours, adding that there was no rational reason to justify the delayed transfer.

The judge also found Medoruma’s arrest by Japanese authorities to be illegal.

Medoruma said that the ruling reached by the court is “only natural.”