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3 August, 2016

Japanese Government Wins in Supreme Court: Tents of Anti-Nuclear Groups Next to METI Ministry Building to Be Forcibly Removed

On July 28, Japan's Supreme Court handed down its ruling in a case filed originally by the national government over tents pitched by anti-nuclear groups outside buildings of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. It upheld an earlier order that the groups evacuate and pay for their use of the land.

The court’s petty bench, led by Judge Naoto Ohtani, rejected an appeal made by members of the groups against a lower court ruling. The Tokyo District Court is expected to carry out the forcible removal of the tents upon the request of the government, though members of the groups are expected to resist.

The three tents were erected almost five years ago—in September and October 2011—at the north corner of the premises of METI in a space along the sidewalk. Since then, members of a shadowy coalition of primarily far-left groups have continuously occupied them, displaying signs criticizing national nuclear policy and proclaiming the site a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement.

The groups had argued that setting up the tents fell within the concept of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, and that the suit by the government was an attempt to interfere with the expression of opinion in violation of that. The Tokyo District Court ruled in the first instance that the government’s filing of the suit was a proper part of managing national property and not unjust, and that it did not interfere with the expression of the same opinions by other means. The Tokyo High Court affirmed that in the second instance.

The ruling includes an order that two defendants of the groups pay about JPY21,000 (USD206 at USD1 = JPY102) per day for use of the land, for a total of nearly JPY40 million (USD392,000) for the five-year period, plus interest.

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