Anti-US base protest leader’s 5-month detention brings condemnation
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Dozens of Okinawans gather every weekday morning outside an Okinawa courthouse to protest the detention of Hiroji Yamashiro, an anti-U.S. base protest leader who’s been held in solitary confinement since mid-October.
“Release him immediately,” a fellow Okinawa Peace Activity Center member shouted into a microphone last week. “Give Hiroji back to us.”
Yamashiro, 64, chairman of the group opposed to relocating Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, has been accused of a string of protest-related offenses, from cutting barbed wire to obstructing businesses and law enforcement.
The U.S. and Japanese governments consider the base relocation on Okinawa a critical component of U.S. military force realignment in the Asia-Pacific, despite calls from protestors like Yamashiro to move the base off-island.
Moving Futenma out of Okinawa would separate the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit from its helicopters and aviation assets.
Yamashiro’s supporters say the Japanese government is trying to quell anti-base dissent while making an example out of him. Human-rights groups such as Amnesty International have called for Yamashiro’s immediate release, and there have been demonstrations in his name as far away as New York City.
“Detaining him for as long as five months over such minor offenses is impossible and illegal,” said friend and supporter Isamu Nakasone, a former Okinawa magistrate. “The arrest itself does not meet the requirements mandated by law. It was done following a scenario drawn by the government, targeting him, with an attempt to curtail the protest movements.”
Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/1.457975