Heavily-policed demonstrations were held in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo July 5 as world leaders began arriving on the island of Hokkaido for the G8 summit that opens Monday at Toyako mountain resort. A march of some 5,000 was lined with, and sometimes boxed in by, several thousand police in full riot gear. At least four people—including Reuters reporter Masahiro Koike—were arrested. Police shattered the window of a sound truck and dragged out the driver. AFP said the van failed to stop at a traffic stop. Japan Economic Newswire reported that a South Korean labor union official arriving for the protests was arrested at Sapporo’s airport July 4 “on suspicion of obstructing an immigration officer.”
The No! G8 Legal Team reported July 6 that several leftist leaders around Japan in the prelude to the summit, and “face years in prison.” The statement says local organizers fear arrest:
This latest action comes after weeks of repressive activity on behalf of the police and government. Activists throughout Japan have been arrested at demonstrations and in their homes, often on “technical” charges, such as not registering a change of address. Overt surveillance of activists, academics and reporters has been taking place for months, and with some local activists for years. International conference participants and protesters have been interrogated for hours at the border and many have been denied entry into the country without warrant. The legal team sees this as a violation of people’s right to freely exchange ideas.
“We were surprised by the excessive force used by police in today’s demonstration,” said Ko Watari, of WATCH, a Japanese legal network created to document police and government misconduct during the anti G8 protests. “This was a non-violent demonstration where no acts against property or people took place, or even appeared likely to take place.” The arrested Reuter’s cameraman was standing on a public sidewalk when seized by plainclothes police; his video camera was confiscated and has not been returned. The arrest of the sound truck driver followed immediately thereafter. Footage of the driver’s arrest shows him screaming in pain as the police pulled him out of the truck, his foot stuck in the steering wheel.
Japanese law permits police to hold and interrogate suspects in the police station for 23 days without formal charges. They can interrogate suspects for up to 12 hours at a time. While detained arrestees can be forced to sit on their knees the entire time they are awake, not being able to move, even to use the bathroom without asking permission. This permission is not always granted.
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