Photo/IllutrationEducation minister Masahiko Shibayama (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

SAITAMA--Saitama prefectural police have defended its officers’ actions on Aug. 24 of forcibly removing a university student who was heckling prior to the education minister's appearance in support of a Saitama gubernatorial candidate.

“The officers stopped him from taking a dangerous action of jumping out into the street,” prefectural police told The Asahi Shimbun on Sept. 2.

According to the prefectural police, the incident occurred in front of JR Omiya Station at around 7 p.m. on Aug. 24.

The university student, who was raising a placard and shouting in opposition to the government's plan to reform university entrance examinations, tried to jump over a hedge that was separating a street and a sidewalk.

Three police officers grabbed him and pulled him several meters to the sidewalk.

"Don't jump as it's dangerous," one of the officers reportedly warned him.

When the incident occurred, education minister Masahiko Shibayama had yet to arrive at the scene. Another speaker was speaking in support of a Liberal Democratic Party-backed candidate running in the Aug. 25 Saitama gubernatorial election.

On the Internet, criticism was posted of the ejection of a protester saying, “(Police) removed a university student who was protesting against the education minister from (a venue of) street speeches."

Shibayama said on Twitter, “(The university student’s) shouts clearly could be heard by everyone on the scene.”

The education minister also said in a news conference on Aug. 27, “I think that it cannot be said that shouting (at the venues of speeches) is a guaranteed right.”

He added, “Freedom of expression must be guaranteed at the maximum. But smooth-running and freedom of election activities are also very important.”

The university student told The Asahi Shimbun, “I spoke out for students who are confused due to reforms of university entrance examinations. But my voice was denied to be heard on the grounds that it was a ‘shouting voice.’ I cannot accept that.”

He also said, “I wanted to appeal to the education minister directly as moves toward reforming entrance examinations are becoming full-fledged.”

Hiroyuki Eda, a senior officer of the Saitama prefectural police, said, “If (the university student) stands on a road and obstructs traffic, those acts could constitute a violation of the Road Traffic Law. The law on police officers’ implementation of their duties stipulates that they can stop people’s acts if the acts could lead to crimes. Therefore, we think that the (three police officers’) actions were not illegal.”