Monk fined for distributing Communist Party fliers set to lose trespassing appeal

Mainichi Daily News, September 30, 2009

A Buddhist monk fined for distributing fliers in an apartment block is set to lose his trespassing conviction appeal when the Supreme Court hands down its ruling next month.

Yosei Arakawa, 62, of Tokyo's Katsushika Ward, was charged with entering the apartment block in December 2004 to distribute Japanese Communist Party fliers about the party's activities at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. A not guilty verdict in Arakawa's first trial was overturned on appeal in December 2007, and the monk was ordered to pay a 50,000-yen fine. Lawyers for the monk appealed, but the top court's Second Petty Bench did not hear arguments necessary to alter the second verdict, making a confirmation of the fine all but certain when a ruling is handed down Oct. 19.

"There are no cases of arresting or holding a person on trespassing charges for distributing commercial information such as pizza delivery fliers," lawyers for Arakawa stated in their appeal. "This is a violation of freedom of expression."

The judge's decision in the first trial declared that, "there is no generally accepted principle wherein entry into a public space can be considered a criminal matter if a person is only distributing something."

In overturning the original not guilty verdict, the appeal court stated that "the defendant entered the premises despite knowing he had not been given permission to do so, and is therefore guilty of trespassing." Furthermore, "Freedom of expression does not have limitless protection, and violating property rights cannot be permitted."

"I don't think we've reached an absolute conclusion," Arakawa said. "I just can't understand how distributing fliers can be a crime."