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Japan MSDF officers sue gov't for wrongful arrest after filing power harassment complaint

A lieutenant junior grade officer belonging to Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's Base Service Activity Yokosuka, center, and a former petty officer third class, left, are seen in Yokohama's Naka Ward on Feb. 6, 2023. (Mainichi/Hitoshi Sonobe)

YOKOHAMA -- Two men including a lieutenant junior grade officer belonging to Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's Base Service Activity Yokosuka filed a lawsuit seeking about 10 million yen (some $76,000) in damages against the government for having been wrongfully arrested after filing a power harassment complaint with the Defense Ministry.

    The lieutenant in his 40s and a former petty officer third class in his 20s working at Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) Hospital Yokosuka announced they filed the suit dated Feb. 3 with the Yokohama District Court in a press conference held on Feb. 6 in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture.

    According to the complaint and other sources, in January 2022, the lieutenant who was working at the hospital at the time was consulted by his subordinate, the former petty officer planning to retire, about being subjected to power harassment by another superior -- a male chief petty officer. The ex-petty officer had been ordered to be more on duty than his colleagues and was also told things such as, "The next job is too much for you. Go cancel your resignation," and, "Something like power harassment can be covered up."

    In addition to the former petty officer, the lieutenant had also been consulted by three others about being subjected to power harassment by the same chief petty officer. The lieutenant prepared a written petition and a response requesting that disciplinary action be taken against the chief, and submitted them to the Maritime Staff Office and the Headquarters Yokosuka District around early February 2022.

    However, the lieutenant and the ex-petty officer were arrested by the police unit, an investigative agency within the JSDF, on Sept. 27, 2022, on suspicion of filing a false complaint. The two were released two days later, and the Yokosuka branch of the Yokohama District Public Prosecutors Office dropped the case on Nov. 30 due to lack of evidence.

    The lieutenant said to the press, "We were arrested without even being questioned first. I was ordered to transfer on the day of the arrest, and I have not been given a job. I can only think that it is an act of retaliation against my accusation." The petty officer, who voluntarily retired in January 2022, also complained, "We want to know why we were arrested."

    The Ministry of Defense commented on Feb. 6, "Once we receive the complaint, we will review it with the relevant authorities and take appropriate action."

    (Japanese original by Hitoshi Sonobe, Yokohama Bureau, and Toshiaki Uchihashi, Tokyo City News Department)

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