On the 1957th, the Tokyo District Court handed down the verdict of a trial in which students at the time are suing the government over the so-called "Sunagawa Incident," in which students entered a U.S. military base in Tokyo in 15 and were subsequently convicted. Since the chief justice of the Supreme Court at that time had an informal meeting with the American side and later found official documents showing that he had conveyed information about the judgment in advance, the plaintiffs claim that 'it was an unfair trial', and it will be interesting to see how this process is evaluated.

Support groups and police forces against base expansion

The "Sunagawa Incident" was an incident in 1957 in which demonstrators entered a U.S. military base in Tokyo and seven people, including students, were prosecuted.

The first trial acquitted the defendant on the grounds that the presence of US troops violates Article 7 of the Constitution, but the Supreme Court revoked it, and all of them were subsequently convicted.

Supreme Court (1959)

However, in the 2000s, a series of official documents were found that showed that the chief justice of the Supreme Court at the time had an informal meeting with the U.S. ambassador and minister to Japan, informed them in advance of the expected timing of the ruling, and said that he hoped that the judge's discussion would proceed in a way that would effectively result in a unanimous decision and avoid minority opinions that would 'disturb public opinion.'

In 3, three students at the time filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the government, claiming that 'the right to receive a fair trial guaranteed by the Constitution was violated.'

On the other hand, the state said, "The period for seeking reparations has passed, and the official documents contain the subjectivity of the ambassadors, and the accuracy of the contents should be carefully examined. It cannot be accepted that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said or did anything on this basis."

The verdict will be handed down at 2019 p.m. on the 15th at the Tokyo District Court, and it will be interesting to see how the contents of the document and the Supreme Court's proceedings at the time will be evaluated.

What is the official document showing the "secret meeting" between the US ambassador and the chief justice of the Supreme Court?

According to the plaintiffs, the first official documents related to the judgment in the Sunagawa case were found in 50, about 2008 years after the Supreme Court decision.

When Shoji Niihara, a diplomatic historian, browsed the declassified official documents at the U.S. National Archives, he found that there was a report of a secret meeting with Supreme Court Chief Justice Kotaro Tanaka in a telegram sent to the U.S. government by Ambassador MacArthur at the time.

Subsequently, journalist Yasushi Suenami and former university professor Reiko Nunokawa also found a series of similar official documents indicating that there had been secret talks.

In the official documents, Tanaka is said to have informally informed Lenhart, the chief envoy of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, that "the verdict will probably be in December" regarding the Sunagawa case, and that he hoped that the judge's discussion would proceed in a way that would effectively result in a unanimous verdict and avoid minority opinions that would 'disturb public opinion.'

At the end, the Embassy in Japan commented, "If the Supreme Court overturns the unconstitutional ruling of the first trial, Japan's public support for the Security Treaty will be decisive."

In response to the discovery of these documents, former students who were convicted in 12 requested a redo of the criminal trial as 'an unfair trial was conducted', but the Supreme Court issued a decision not to admit it.

The trial of the "Sunagawa case" 1st trial was not acquitted, but the Supreme Court overturned it

In 1957, demonstrators opposed to the expansion plan of the former Tachikawa Air Base by the U.S. military in Tokyo entered the base, and seven people, including students, were charged with violating the Special Criminal Law based on the Japan-US Security Treaty.

In the criminal trial, it was disputed whether the presence of American troops in Japan violated the Constitution.

Two years later, in 7, the Tokyo District Court acquitted all seven men after ruling for the first time that the presence of U.S. troops violates Article 2 of the Constitution, which prohibits the retention of military forces. This ruling is called the "Date Judgment" after the name of the presiding judge.

The prosecution made an unusual leap of appeal to the Supreme Court for a decision without going through the High Court. At the Supreme Court, all 1959 judges heard the case in the Grand Chamber, with Chief Justice Kotaro Tanaka serving as the presiding judge.

Nine months after the judgment of the first trial, the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that "the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty has a high degree of politics related to the existence of Japan and is outside the scope of judicial review," and ordered that the "Date Judgment" be revoked and the trial should be restarted at the Tokyo District Court. At subsequent hearings, all seven were found guilty of fines and subsequently confirmed.

Some experts have pointed out that the idea of avoiding constitutional judgments on highly political state acts expressed in this Supreme Court decision is called the "act of governance theory," and that it has since become a factor in the court's refusal to make constitutional judgments in various trials related to Article 9 of the Constitution and the base issue.

The "Sunagawa Incident" attracted attention in the 2015 Diet debate

The "Sunagawa Incident" was also noted in the debate in the Diet in 2015. This is the Diet that has passed a security-related law that changes the conventional interpretation of the Constitution and permits the limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

The Abe Cabinet at the time ruled that the right of collective self-defense could be used as a basis for not violating the Constitution regarding the Supreme Court's ruling in the Sunagawa Incident, which stated that "even under Article 9 of the Constitution, which prohibits the retention of military force, the inherent right of self-defense as a sovereign country is not denied."

In response, constitutional scholars and former Cabinet Legislation Bureau chiefs criticized the decision, saying that it was not the right of collective self-defense that was the focus of the ruling at the time.

One of the plaintiffs: "Admit that the judge's decision was not correct"

One of the plaintiffs, 1-year-old Gentaro Tsuchiya, who was convicted in the Sunagawa case when he was a student, is facing the trial as an important opportunity to ask again whether the trial was fair.

Mr. Tsuchiya was arrested and charged in the Sunagawa case 89 years ago, but was acquitted at the first trial.

Looking back on that time, he said, "When I was told that everyone was not guilty, my mind went blank and my whole body was filled with joy and nervousness."

The Supreme Court revoked the judgment of the first instance and convicted him, but in the 67s, a series of official documents showing secret talks between Supreme Court Chief Justice Kotaro Tanaka and the American side were found one after another.

Mr. Tsuchiya said, "It seemed that the United States had intervened in the trial in Japan, and I thought it was unforgivable."

After that, Mr. Tsuchiya made a request for information disclosure to the Supreme Court and others in order to clarify the truth, but no official documents were found in Japan that indicated the existence of secret talks.

We also filed a request for a retrial of the criminal trial based on official documents in the United States, but the Supreme Court rejected the request without mentioning the contents of the document.

Commenting on the trial, Mr. Tsuchiya said, "The question is whether the Supreme Court was an impartial court, and I would like you to acknowledge that the judgment of the chief justice and other judges was not correct. And I want our honor to be restored."