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Court says former Governor cleared of ¥328M payback

Date Posted: 2004-10-22

Okinawa’s former governor has been excused from reimbursing Prefecture coffers for funds spent in violation of environmental policies.

Masahide Ota, now a member of the House of Councilors representing the Social Democratic Party, say a high court overturn a lower court ruling that had directed him to repay ¥328 million he’d authorized in development projects that involved habitats of rare bird species. The Fukuoka High Court’s Naha branch agreed Ota had been involved in some procedural errors, but agreed they were necessary.

A group of Okinawa citizens had taken Ota to court, charging that his authorization of construction and road projects endangered rare woodpeckers and Okinawa rail birds in the northern parts of the island. The group, linked to conservation groups, were asking ¥370 million in damages. They say they’ll appeal the court decision.

Naha District Court last year charged current Governor Keiichi Inamine with illegal actions for not making Ota return the money. It also ordered Ota to make restitution, calling the Okinawa Prefecture actions in building a 14.2 kilometer road illegal. The court noted that the March 1998 project had not met conservation and environmental standards. The court also agreed with the plaintiffs that Kunigami Village, also in northern Okinawa, saw farmlands developed with government subsidies.

Former Governor Ota called this week’s ruling “appropriate and right”, telling reporters “I have cherished the nature of Okinawa more than any others”. He accused the conservation groups of being obstructionists for not discussing their complaints with Prefecture officials.

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