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Man strong-armed by police at Japan PM Abe rally files civil, criminal complaints

Masae Osugi (center, wearing a surgical mask) holds a news conference with his legal team after filing a criminal complaint against Hokkaido Prefectural Police officers on Dec. 3, 2019, in Sapporo. (Mainichi/Chie Yamashita)

SAPPORO -- A man forcibly taken away by police officers after he jeered Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a campaign stop in this city ahead of the July House of Councillors election has filed both a civil suit and a criminal complaint against the Hokkaido Prefectural Police and some of its officers.

"I filed the suit and the complaint to reaffirm that we the sovereign people have the right to jeer" leaders, Masae Osugi, a 31-year-old social worker, told reporters on Dec. 3 after filing papers at the Sapporo District Court in the capital of Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido.

"Heckling our leaders is not at all strange in a democratic society. It would be truly frightening if we could be arrested illegally just for yelling out different views," Osugi continued.

The filings stem from a July 15 incident in front of JR Sapporo Station in which protesters heckled Prime Minister Abe with calls including "Resign!" and "No tax hike!" The hecklers were surrounded by groups of police officers, who grabbed them, physically forced them out of the area and then continued to chase them away. Suspected police officers did the same to demonstrators about to hold placards critical of the Abe government's pension policies.

Osugi's criminal complaint accuses seven unidentified Hokkaido Prefectural Police officers of abusing their authority and assault and cruelty for forcibly removing him from the Abe rally.

The 31-year-old asserts that the removal was a violation of his physical freedom that constituted an "arrest." He also states that since the heckling did not prevent Abe's speech from going ahead, it did not contravene public offices election law provisions against hindering an election. Furthermore, Osugi noted, that multiple people were removed from campaign stop locations in the same way by different groups of officers, suggesting that the policy was decided and applied across the entire Hokkaido Prefectural Police force.

The civil suit demands 3.3 million yen (about $30,300) in reparations from the Hokkaido police for restricting Osugi's freedom of political expression through unlawful arrest, as well as for inflicting mental and physical harm including the terror he felt and pain in his neck caused by being forcibly taken away.

According to Osugi's legal team, a woman who was also removed from an Abe rally by force is also set to file suit against the police force.

(Japanese original by Chie Yamashita, Hokkaido News Department)

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