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Anti-base Okinawa activist released after five months in detention

A prominent leader of the anti-base movement in Okinawa was released on bail Saturday after spending five months in jail over minor offenses.

The Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court ordered Hiroji Yamashiro, 64, head of the Okinawa Peace Action Center, released on bail, upholding the Naha District Court’s decision on Friday. Prosecutors had appealed the district court ruling.

Yamashiro was arrested in October for allegedly cutting barbed wire at a U.S. military training area in Higashi, Okinawa. He has also led groups opposed to the relocation plan for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma further south in Ginowan. Okinawa hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.

At his first hearing at the district court Friday, Yamashiro admitted to the charge of destroying property by cutting barbed wire. But he pleaded not guilty to two other charges: the forcible obstruction of a business and assault.

Yamashiro and other activists are accused of piling some 1,480 concrete blocks in front of the gate to Camp Schwab in Nago in January 2016 in a bid to prevent the delivery of equipment and materials needed for the relocation project there.

He is also suspected of injuring a local defense bureau official by grabbing his shoulder and shaking him last August near the U.S. military training area in Higashi.

The high-profile detention prompted human rights groups including Amnesty International Japan to call for Yamashiro’s immediate release.

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Japan rights group, at U.N. meeting in Geneva, calls for release of Okinawa activist

A Japanese human rights group Friday called for the immediate release of an activist detained for nearly five months in connection with his opposition to U.S. bases in Okinawa Prefecture.

Akira Maeda of the Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights, slammed the government for continuing to detain Hiroji Yamashiro, head of the Okinawa Peace Action Center, during a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“Mr. Hiroji Yamashiro . . . has been detained for 140 days on relatively minor charges, triggering accusations that the Japanese government is trying to silence him,” he said. “Yamashiro’s continued incarceration contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Yamashiro, 64, has led groups objecting to the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma within the prefecture.

He was arrested in October on suspicion of cutting barbed wire near a U.S. military helipad construction site in Higashi, in northern Okinawa. He has also been charged with injuring a Defense Ministry official and obstructing relocation work at another U.S. Marine base in Nago.

Amnesty International Japan has also called for Yamashiro’s immediate release, saying he does not meet the criteria for being detained as the chances of him destroying evidence concerning his alleged crimes are very low.

Supporters stage New York rally demanding Japan release Okinawa anti-base activist

Supporters of a prominent opponent of U.S. military bases in Okinawa held a rally Thursday outside the Japanese Consulate in New York calling for his release from more than four months’ detention.

The move came after Japan’s Supreme Court last month denied bail to Hiroji Yamashiro, head of the Okinawa Peace Action Center. Human rights and civil groups are calling for him to be released from what they say is political oppression.

“I suspect the detention is to crush nonviolent (peace) movements in Okinawa. It is a flagrant violation of human rights,” said Noriko Oyama, who led the rally in front of the Japanese Consulate General.

Yamashiro, 64, has led protest groups against the long-opposed bilateral plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to Nago in Okinawa.

He was arrested in October on suspicion of cutting barbed wire near a U.S. construction site in Higashi, where a helipad was being built. He has also been charged with injuring a Defense Ministry official and obstructing relocation work at another U.S. Marine base in Nago. The nature and seriousness of the injury was not clear.

Amnesty International Japan has called for Yamashiro’s immediate release, saying he does not meet the criteria for being detained because the chances of him destroying evidence concerning his alleged crimes are very low.

Amnesty appeals for Okinawa activist’s release

The human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the continued detention of an activist who was arrested for protesting the construction of a US military facility in Okinawa Prefecture.

Hiroji Yamashiro, the chairman of the Okinawa Peace Action Center, was arrested last October for allegedly cutting a wire fence around a helipad construction site in a US military training area in the prefecture.

Yamashiro was later arrested again for assaulting a local defense official.

The Amnesty International statement protests what it calls the deprivation of Yamashiro’s physical liberty.

It expresses concern that the detention is part of the Japanese government’s suppression of the anti-base movement, and says the arrest has had a chilling effect on other protesters.

Yamashiro’s lawyer says the defendant has denied all charges except for damaging property.

The lawyer has asked more than 10 times for a meeting and Yamashiro’s release, but the requests have been turned down by a local court.

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