The Kyoto District Court has fined a former senior member of the anti-Korean group Zaitokukai ¥500,000 for using hate speech to defame an operator of schools for Korean children.

Public prosecutors had sought a prison term of 18 months ahead of Friday’s ruling.

According to the decision, Hitoshi Nishimura used a loudspeaker near an area of Kyoto once occupied by one of the schools to claim that a former principal had abducted Japanese citizens and was wanted internationally. He later posted a video clip of the April 2017 remarks on the internet.

The defense lawyer had insisted on Nishimura’s innocence, claiming that the remarks were made in criticism of the General Association of Korean Residents, or Chongryon, not as a protest against the school.

But presiding Judge Satoshi Shibayama concluded that Nishimura’s remarks had targeted Korean schools in Japan.

Nishimura, 51, “used powerful tools for communication, such as a loudspeaker and a video clip, and the damage cannot be made light of,” Shibayama said.

Meanwhile, the presiding judge recognized that Nishimura’s speech had aimed to clarify facts involving the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea decades ago, noting that it was intended to ensure public interest.

Representatives of the school operator called the ruling an utterly unjust decision at a news conference in Kyoto on Friday.

In a civil lawsuit previously filed by the school operator, the Zaitokukai side was ordered to pay damages for hate speech, which was recognized as racism. That ruling has been finalized.

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