Photo/Illutration Peach Aviation Ltd. aircraft are lined up in a parking area at Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture in 2020. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

OSAKA--The lawyer of a man accused of causing a disturbance aboard a Peach Aviation Ltd. flight in 2020 for not wearing a mask claimed he could not wear one because he suffers from chronic asthma. 

The Osaka District Court on May 17 held the opening session of a trial for Junya Okuno, 35, a former university official residing in Toride, Ibaraki Prefecture. 

Okuno is accused of forcibly obstructing a company’s business and injuring a person after refusing to wear a mask and causing a disturbance aboard a flight and forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Okuno said at the court session, “Is it really right to shun someone just because the person doesn’t wear a mask? I wasn’t violent to the crew.”

His lawyer maintained that he was repeatedly asked to don a mask by the crew and criticized by other passengers for being maskless, before arguing, “Intolerance in society dragged the defendant into this trouble.”

According to the prosecutors’ statement, Okuno boarded a Peach Aviation flight bound for Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture at Kushiro Airport in Hokkaido in September 2020. He was not wearing a mask.

The statement says that he argued while on the plane that other passengers had insulted him.

Then he twisted the arm of a crew member who asked him to stop being loud.

According to the statement, he obstructed the business of Peach Aviation by forcing the plane to make an emergency landing at Niigata Airport as a result of the disturbance.

Okuno also obstructed the business of a restaurant in Tateyama in Chiba Prefecture in April last year by refusing to wear a mask, the statement said.

Okuno appeared at the court session without wearing a mask.

As a result, the district court installed acrylic boards at the witness box as a preventive measure against the spread of infections.

The presiding judge told Okuno before closing the session, “Please wear a mask or a face shield when you give testimony, at the very least.”

(This article was written by Kengo Yasui and Yusuke Morishita.)