Photo/IllutrationAnti-hate speech protesters hold up signs criticizing hate speech in Kawasaki. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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KAWASAKI--A summary court here ordered a man to pay a 300,000 yen ($2,700) fine for posting racist tweets against an ethnic Korean woman who has long campaigned against hate speech targeting minorities

Shigeyuki Ikeda, 51, of Fujisawa was found guilty of violating a Kanagawa prefectural ordinance aimed at stopping acts of harassment.

Lawyers who have supported Choi Kang-ija, 46, hailed the Dec. 27 decision as having the potential to restrain similar hate speech postings over the internet.

The Kawasaki Local Public Prosecutors Office issued a summary indictment against Ikeda, which resulted in the Kawasaki Summary Court order.

The decision marked the end of a long legal battle for Choi and could have wider ramifications because similar ordinances have also been passed by other prefectures, such as Tokyo, Aichi, Osaka and Fukuoka as well as Hokkaido.

Kawasaki prosecutors focused on four tweets posted by Ikeda using the name of "Kyokuto no kodama" (Echo of the Far East). The posts dating from June 2016 until September 2017 included comments such as: "I will never forgive ethnic Koreans living comfortably in Japan while using discrimination as their shield. I recognize no rights on their part."

Prosecutors issued the summary indictment on grounds the tweets defamed Choi's character and were violations of the ordinance.

While a law was passed in 2016 dealing with hate speech, it did not have any provisions for penalties.

The Kawasaki city government established an ordinance earlier in December banning hate speech that included criminal penalties. However, those penalties did not cover hate speech acts over the internet.

At a Dec. 27 news conference after the ruling, Choi said, "The discrimination and insults directed at me caused damage to all ethnic Koreans living in Japan."

She said she suffered from insomnia and impaired hearing because of the tweets and vowed to work for tougher laws to prevent such acts.

Choi had been a target of vicious postings on the internet because she has stood in the vanguard in Kawasaki against hate speech.

She initially submitted a criminal complaint, alleging the tweets were a form of intimidation. In May 2018, the Kanagawa prefectural police sent papers to prosecutors against Ikeda on suspicion of intimidation, but the Yokohama District Public Prosecutors Office decided in February not to indict him.

That led Choi to file a complaint under the prefectural ordinance about acts of harassment.

There have been other cases of posters of hate speech content to the internet being fined. In January, two men in Okinawa Prefecture were fined 100,000 yen each under a summary indictment for defamation of character.

(This article was written by Kaname Ohira and Hirohisa Yamashita.)