Photo/IllutrationLawyers and others with ties to Kyoto Chosen Gakuen speak to reporters on Nov. 29 after a ruling in their favor was handed down by the Kyoto District Court. (Takuya Yamazaki)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--The district court here found an anti-Korean activist guilty of defamation and fined him 500,000 yen ($4,600) for a hateful rant against the operator of a Kyoto school for Korean nationals.

Prosecutors had sought an 18-month prison term for Hitoshi Nishimura, but the Kyoto District Court said Nov. 29 that a fine was a more appropriate punishment as the defamation occurred while Nishimura was expressing arguments he felt were in the public good.

Nishimura once headed the Kyoto branch of Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (Group of citizens that do not tolerate privileges for ethnic Korean residents in Japan), known as Zaitokukai and considered to be particularly rabid in its ravings.

The hate speech case was unusual because the defamation charge, which carries a heavier possible punishment, was applied by prosecutors rather than a simple insult charge.

Nishimura immediately appealed the ruling.

The court noted that on April 23, 2017, Nishimura barked into a megaphone at a park near where the Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School once stood and, pointing to the site, said, "This Chosen school abducted Japanese" and "The principal of that Chosen school is on the international most wanted list for abducting Japanese."

The speech was taped and the video posted online. The court agreed that Nishimura had defamed Kyoto Chosen Gakuen, which operates the school.

The ruling recognized that the school's reputation suffered as a result of Nishimura's rant.

It also said that while the contents of the speech regarding the culprit behind the abduction of Japanese nationals had a high degree of public interest, Nishimura's remarks constituted defamation because he made no effort to provide evidence to back up his claims and there was no valid reason to believe what he said was true.