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Hiroji Yamashiro

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.

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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