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Japan’s Supreme Court upholds blanket surveillance of Muslims

29th Jul 2016
Japan’s Supreme Court upholds blanket surveillance of Muslims

Turkish Mosque at Yoyogi Uehara in Tokyo (Photo: Emrank/Creative Commons)

Nadine Osman

Japan’s Supreme Court has upheld the Government’s blanket surveillance of the country’s 15,000 Muslim community.

The court struck down the second appeal by Japanese Muslim plaintiffs against what they perceive as an unconstitutional invasion of their privacy and freedom of religion.

A 2010 leak of 114 police files revealed nationwide surveillance of Japanese Muslims. The files revealed that mosques, halal restaurants and Islam-related organisations across Tokyo, were being monitored.

Within a few weeks of the leak, the data had been downloaded 10,000 times in 20 different countries from a file-sharing website.

A group of 17 Japanese Muslims, mostly from Middle Eastern and North African countries, decided to sue the Japanese Government for infringing on their constitutional rights. Among the plaintiffs is Muslim convert Mohamed Fujita.

Fujita told Al Jazeera: “They made us terrorist suspects; we never did anything wrong – on the contrary.”

The Supreme Court finally dismissed the case after two appeals on May 31.The plaintiffs were awarded ¥90 million ($880,000) as compensation due to violation of their privacy by the leak.

However, the presiding judges did not make a judgment on police profiling and surveillance tactics which a lower court had upheld as “necessary and inevitable” to guard against international terrorism.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Junko Hayashi said: “We were told we don’t have a constitutional case, We’re still trying to figure out how it is not constitutional.”

Whistleblower Edward Snowden said Muslims in Japan “are more likely to be targeted… despite not having any criminal activities or associations or anything like that in their background, simply because people are afraid.”

On July 13 a Muslim association in the city of Shizuoka confirmed it has received threats of physical harm following a terrorist attack earlier this month in Bangladesh, in which 20 hostages including Japanese and Italians were killed.

An official of the Shizuoka Muslim Association said it had received four handwritten letters in Japanese stating, “I feel sorry for the Japanese and Italians in Bangladesh” and “Be careful from now on because I will beat you with a bat from behind!”

The letters are believed to have been written by the same person, the official said.The Association requested local police to strengthen patrols around the building where it is based.

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