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Okinawa court orders protester to stop sit-ins

Date Posted: 2012-03-21

An Okinawan man who’s repeatedly been arrested for staging sit-ins at the construction site for an American military heliport has been ordered to stop by a Naha District Court judge.

The unidentified protester was told by Judge Ryosuke Sakai to stop obstructing traffic and interfering with construction at the heliport site, explaining his protests were above and beyond legitimate levels of expression. A second protester was removed from the court case.

The Army’s Northern Training Area, situated between Kunigami and Higashi on the northeast coast of Okinawa, is the site of the construction, which was begun in 2007. Repeated protests starting in 2008 led to earlier banning of 15 protesters in 2008.

The heliport is important to both the U.S. and Japan because a 1996 pact between the two countries stipulated half the Northern Training Area be returned to Japan in exchange for relocation of the heliport. Residents say they’re opposed to the heliport because of environmental damage concerns, and also because of safety issues.

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