Free to Protest
A small update on a post I write a while back about the struggle for student political activities at Hosei University in Tokyo.
Five university student, who had been charged in June 2009 with acts of violence and vandalism and acquitted in May 2012, were cleared again in February of this year after the Court of Appeal admitted the evidence against them was inconclusive.
The students (four from the University and one student activist formerly from Tohoku University) were detained for 8 months as the police tried to extract confessions from them. Confessions are often the only form of evidence available to the prosecution due to lackadaisical or inept police work. Though it is well known that many are given under duress and unsafe (indeed a lot are withdrawn as soon as the defendant reaches a courtroom) in the Japanese courts they carry a lot of weight and thus lead to a very high conviction rate. The lack of any self-incriminating confession by the Hosei Five (as they came known) plus inadequate CCTV footage and witness statements left the court no choice to to reject the appeal brought by the university.
Now the former students, Taku Arai, Makoto Masui, Ryo Onda, Yuichi Utsumi and Yosuke Oda, with the support of the radical student union, Zengakuren are free to spearhead the fight against the authorities at Hosei University who they accuse of suppressing human-rights like free speech and student political participation along with broader, neo-liberal crimes such as profiting from education, by increasing student fees and outsourcing.
Since the troubles began at the university in 2006, there have been 125 people arrested or indicted for offences related to activism and eight Hosei students have been suspended indefinitely. Three of the Hosei Five were also expelled and in a protest on Friday last week (April 25th) several of those that had been affected by the campus’s clampdown noisily demanded the university publicly apologise to them and the other students that were caught up in the troubles and reinstate the students that were excluded.
About 60 people took apart in the protest which was policed by a roughly equal number of Tokyo’s finest and the private Hosei security guards. Just as last time the rally was noisy but small and mostly ignored by the other students, a handful of whom came to watch. There was one pantomime-like attempt to break the cordon and gain access to the university (top photo).
But the only real violence I saw was committed against one of the protesters: As activists, Yuhimaru Takeda and Makoto Masui (second photo) took up positions on the sidewalk to give a speech, an old man, pushing a wheelchair, took umbrage at the minute inconvenience he suffered in manoeuvring the even older lady in the chair around the protest by kicking Takeda hard in the chest. The young man went spilling across the road towards the main protest and the police van before regaining his balance and resuming his position on the sidewalk. he was winded and shocked but aside from angrily shouting questions at the attacker as he walked off, he did nothing. The police did nothing to apprehend the attacker also of course.
For a more in depth analysis of the issues regarding the protests at Hosei University and the court cases surrounding them have a look at this article by William Andrews in the Japan Times. With a couple of my images from Friday to accompany it.