On 11 April 2008, the Supreme Court of Japan rejected the plea of not guilty by 3 activists who inserted fliers to the mailboxes of the Defense Ministry's personnel housing units in Tokyo.
In 2003, three peace activists of an antiwar group, who opposed the dispatch of Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel to Iraq, distributed fliers to the mailboxes of the Defense Ministry's housing compound. The activists were arrested on suspicion of illegal intrusion and were detained for 75 days. Amnesty International called them "prisoners of conscience, detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression".
In 2004, the Tokyo District Court conceded that the activists had entered the entrance of the apartment building, whose entrance and corridor were the private property, without permission, but acquitted them for the reason that the act did not deserve criminal punishment on the grounds that distributing fliers was an act of political expression guaranteed under Article 21-1 of the Japanese Constitution, and the status of such act had ascendancy over the widespread practice of distributing ordinary advertising pamphlets for which no legal action was taken. However, in 2005, the Tokyo High Court overturned the first ruling and imposed the fine on the activists on the grounds that the legal interest of the residents were adversely affected by the activists who continued inserting the fliers after protests by the residents and made them feel uncomfortable, which was not to be considered merely as a minor violation of the law.
The Supreme Court said that while the ruling did not intend to regulate freedom of expression, this was not granted as an unlimited privilege by Article 21-1 but was subject to necessary and reasonable regulation for the public welfare, and act of the free expression which violates other people's rights would not be accepted as lawful. Although the activists were exercising their constitutional right to free speech, they did not have the right to enter other people's property against residents' will and this was violating the property management rights and disturbed the peace of private life, and, as such, the act was criminally illegal. (16 April 2008)
·Supreme Court Ruling (11 April 2008) [Japanese]
·"Japan: arbitrary arrest and continued detention of peace activists is a violation of their basis rights to freedom of expression" (Amnesty International News Release) AI Index ASA 22/001/2004 (18 March 2004)
AI concern over today's Supreme Court ruling - Amnesty International Japan Public Statement, April 11, 2008