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Ainu association chief objects to criminal accusations over salmon fishing

SAPPORO -- The chairman of a group representing Japan's indigenous Ainu people on Sept. 15 called for guarantees of indigenous rights, after he was hit with a criminal complaint for salmon fishing in Japan's northernmost prefecture without a license.

Satoshi Hatakeyama, the 77-year-old chairman of the Monbetsu Ainu association, faces criminal prosecution for catching salmon in the Mobetsu River in the Hokkaido Prefecture city of Monbetsu on Sept. 1 without the Hokkaido Prefectural Government's permission.

"Salmon fishing is something that our ancestors have continued doing for a long, long time," Hatakeyama told reporters at a news conference. "If the central government recognizes Ainu as an indigenous people, then it must seriously think about the return of and compensation for land and resources."

The Hokkaido Prefectural Government filed a criminal complaint with the Hokkaido Prefectural Police Department against Hatakeyama on Sept. 1, accusing him of violating the Act on the Protection of Fishery Resources and a prefectural rule regarding regulations on fishing.

A supporter of Hatakeyama's and professor emeritus at Muroran Institute of Technology, Hiroshi Maruyama, told the news conference, "The fishing rights of indigenous peoples are guaranteed by international law. The government should be rushing to put the recovery of these people's rights into legislation, but instead, the issue has not even come up as a topic of debate. Mr. Hatakeyama's actions were meant to present the problem publicly, and were out of necessity."

(Japanese original by Chie Yamashita, Hokkaido News Department)

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