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A French man arrested by Japanese police during demonstrating against nuclear plants tells you how freedom of speech is ignored in Japan

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You took part in a demonstration against nuclear power here in Tokyo on September 11, 6 months after the incident in Fukushima. Why did you want to take part? What was your message? My message is simple. I was a child when the accident at Chernobyl took place and at the time we all said "never again" but it happened again. The current situation - what is happening to the people around Fukushima - is intolerable. Something needs to be done - so we're trying to do something. You were arrested during this demonstration. What happened? Yes, I was arrested. I was accused of verbally assaulting a police officer. And they also accused me of snatching off a policeman's whistle. I can't help feeling that I'm the victim in this situation. When you consider what the right-wing protesters said as we went by... I'm the victim. The police lied to me... I consider myself to be a victim. I acknowledge that the extreme right wing has the right to demonstrate but not, for example, of accusing us of being killers. That's unacceptable, we didn't do anything like that. I was a victim. I still consider myself a victim. This is because you reacted, in fact, to something the extreme right-wing demonstrators said to you, is that right? Exactly. As my wife and I passed by that group they were saying that the anti-nuclear protestors are criminals and that because of them people would die [eg. that because of the shortage of electricity due to some plants being shut down would lead to the death of children from lack of air-conditioning] and that we don't obey the law. It's intolerable. Ours is a message of Life, we especially want to protect children, pregnant women and young women. As a minimum. But if we can avoid everyone receiving further contamination, then that's what we'll do. What exactly did the police hold against you? Just the fact of being against nuclear power. I mean, we're no longer in a democratic system, I think we're in a "Tepcocracy" [note: TEPCO is the company that operates the Fukushima plants] and it governs the country at the moment. If I damaged this square I would be held accountable. But a company like Tepco, which supplies electricity, and makes money more than it makes electricity, has the right to pollute Japan, to pollute the Pacific Ocean, and from a legal point of view is absolutely not accountable. What's more, history has shown that Tepco has lied in writing on safety issues many times... It's a scandal. I'm a criminal for not accepting this. It's a Tepcocracy, no longer a citizens' democracy. But at the time, why exactly did they arrest you? Because I turned around, because I raised an arm, because I disagreed and because as a passerby, I should just accept hearing people call me a killer. I sympathize more with the anti-nuclear people, I acknowledge that, but I can't accept people calling me a killer, a criminal... That's out of the question. My right as a person, as an individual, to express dissatisfaction with this situation was denied by the police, who arrested me in a way that was both violent and disproportionate compared to my actions. There are a few videos on the incident available on the Internet you can see that even if I my action was "careless" [note: the action of raising an arm] - which I can easily understand - it was nothing more than that. I wasn't being insulting, I wasn't being rebellious, I didn't hit any of the police officers. The opposite happened. I was quite violently apprehended, and throughout my two days in prison I was treated inhumanely, like a criminal even though I'm absolutely not a criminal. It's intolerable. I personally cannot accept it. What they hold against me is that I don't agree with what Japan demands of its people now: to support nuclear power. That's what they hold against me, I think. I understand. You speak very little Japanese and you were wearing a mask at the time. Could this have been a simple misunderstanding that got out of hand? Good question, but what misunderstanding? The misunderstanding is that of the extreme right-wing who go around accusing anti-nuclear activists of being criminals, stigmatising them as criminals. The misunderstanding is on their side. As for me, I have no criminal record at all, I've never committed a criminal act in my life. Now, as for speaking Japanese, no, I don't speak Japanese at all. But I'm accused of verbal abuse. How could I verbally abuse anyone wearing such a mask? Look at it. It's almost airtight. I can't speak. I can't be heard, not distinctly, not clearly. What officer could have written that? How could I be accused of that? Furthermore, from the day I was arrested I've asked to see the written transcript of what I'm accused of having said. The police never gave it to me. Never. I'm still stunned. Did you expect to be arrested? Absolutely not. I expected - when I felt I was losing my liberty - I expected a reprimand at worst. I never expected it to get so out of hand and I never expected I'd end up spending two nights and three days actually in jail where even my most basic rights were suspended. I never thought it could happen. At what point did you realize that you would actually be arrested? At the prison door. So if it wasn't just a misunderstanding, do you think the police may have been expecting have problems? Good question.... Expecting... Yes. Were they prdisposed to see problems? Consider this. I wasn't the only victim that day, there were twelve others [note: 11 others, 12 in total]. When you look at the reasons for the other eleven arrests and you take a step back, you come to realize that the police only curtailed the freedom of speech of the anti-nuclear demonstrators. We were all arrested for reasons that had nothing to do with violence against the police officers or hampering their work. One of the demonstrators - and this makes you realize the democratic problem the issue of nuclear power has raised among the population - one of the demonstrators within a group of demonstrators being escorted by the police, stepped out to go into a convenience store - perhaps to go to the toilet, which is a basic human right - and that simple action lead to his arrest. That person spent two days in jail just for having stepped out of the mass to go to a convenience store, perhaps to go to the toilets. Are we still a Rule of Law democracy? What were they trying to accomplish with these arrests? I think, quite simply, when you look at TEPCO's attitude - TEPCO is operator that supplies electricity to the Greater Tokyo area - Over the last fifty years, from its creation and since it started its nuclear programme, TEPCO has paid a fortune to buy the press. Consider the press, and consider TEPCO commercial approach. TEPCO is the only company in that market, it has no competitors. Why else, if not to bribe the press to silence, would it spend millions of yen a year on advertising? It had to spend even more money because politicians here in Japan are very expensive, they cost a lot, and a considerable amount of money was paid to them. I think it was less than ten years ago, the dominant party here was subsidized by up to 60% or 70%. That's not a few yen, that's billions of yen, cartloads of yen, truckloads of yen. Even if that's a little exagerated, its the truth. Look at the police. The police is a special case. In Japan the police is an institution we pay for through our taxes but its also controlled by politicians. Therefore, this [note: the police's work during the demonstrations] was free. It didn't cost TEPCO anything. Here's an interesting detail. TEPCO, to please the higher echelons of the police, hires between two and five people every year - new retirees - who go into the private sector to organize TEPCO's security [note: amakudari]. That says a lot about their business practices. You mustn't forget that TEPCO sells electricity but the main things it generates are money and power. This is nothing new, its always been this way. How did the arrest go? What was the police's attitude? To treat me like a criminal. In a few minutes, I was turned into a lowly criminal. I was handcuffed. Not innocent til proven guilty? That doesn't exist in Japan. You're a criminal. So it went badly. Mentally, it went badly. For the first time in my life I was arrested and crossed over to the other side. When I look back at it now, I think "what an amazing experience!" Who many people get to see what a Japanese prison looks like? They're great prisons. They're over-air-conditions, you're wearing a t-shirt, its between 15°, 18° and 22°. You're cold all day. It's great. You're handcuffed or tied up like a dog. It's an experience I wouldn't wish on anyone but its worthwhile. I can guarantee that, it's worthwhile. Are you going to keep demonstrating against nuclear power? Of course, of course. I'm totally committed, for the plain and simple reason that the contamination continues to this day. Fukushima Daiichi [note: the plant where the accident took place] continues to spew out billions upon billions of becquerels. Even here, in certain parts of this neighbourhood, there are small hotspots of radiation. In the center of Tokyo there are larger hotspots. In Saitama [note: the prefecture north-east of Tokyo] the levels of radiation are sometimes equivalent to those in Kiev. And nothing changes. Nothing changes. So yes, I will continue. Peacefully, of course. Thank you very much! Thank you for giving me the chance to express my point of view.

Video Details

Duration: 11 minutes and 48 seconds
Country: Japan
Language: French (France)
Genre: None
Views: 300
Posted by: npj on Oct 2, 2011

A French man arrested by Japanese police during demonstrating against nuclear plants tells you how freedom of speech is ignored in Japan

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