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The Yokohama District Court on Monday ended a retrial of the late Yasuhito Ono, a journalist who had been convicted in the Yokohama Incident — the worst example of Japan’s wartime repression of freedom of speech — without determining his guilt or innocence. Regrettably the court failed to deal with the core point of the retrial.

In the Yokohama Incident, the Kanagawa thought-control police arrested about 60 journalists on suspicion of spreading the idea of communism in violation of the Peace Preservation Law during the Pacific War; more than 30 were indicted. Torture was employed during interrogation and four died while in detention. Most of the defendants were given suspended sentences right after World War II ended. The former defendants are all dead.

In and after 1986, retrial requests were filed four times. The first two requests were turned down. But the third request for a retrial of five former defendants was accepted in 2003. The Supreme Court in March 2008 terminated the proceedings without determining the five’s guilt or innocence. The latest retrial suffered the same fate. Ono’s two children opted not to appeal the decision, ending the series of Yokohama Incident-related retrials.

In accepting the request to retry the Ono case, the Yokohama District Court on Oct. 31, 2008, said the original trials were sloppy and pointed to the possibility of false confessions by the defendants. It even pointed to the possibility that the court destroyed records after the war to hide an uncomfortable truth.

On Monday, the court said that since Ono was granted amnesty after the Peace Preservation Law’s abolition on Oct. 15, 1945, the court must follow the 1949 Supreme Court’s precedent-setting ruling that court proceedings are to be terminated if the relevant law is abolished or amnesty is granted. With this decision, the court failed again to squarely look at its past cooperation with the wartime thought-control police and prosecution. Ono’s children will sue the state for redress. The court’s readiness to honestly look at its own history will be tested.

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