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Battle of Okinawa mass suicides court case appeal filed in Osaka

Date Posted: 2008-04-09

Two men whose efforts to block publication of a book by Kenzaburo Oe were rebuffed by an Osaka court have launched a higher court appeal.
Oe’s book, “Okinawa Notes” first published in 1970, charges Japanese Imperial Army soldiers with giving hand grenades to Okinawans and telling them to commit suicide before letting American soldiers capture them during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. The 91-year-old former garrison commander on Zamami Island, one of the locations where the suicides took place, insists the incidents never happened. Yutaka Umezawa is joined in his suit by the 75-year-old brother of a commander who served on Tokashiki Island, another island where the suicides were said to have happened.
Hidekazu Akamatsu and Umezawa’s lawyer calls the Osaka District Court decision to toss out their suit “was unjust in interpreting law and in acknowledging the facts.” They’ve appealed Judge Toshimasa Fukami’s decision, now asking the Osaka High Court to reverse the ruling.
Fukami had ruled the Japanese military was, in fact, involved in the mass murders and suicides of Okinawans during the battle, adding that even if Umezawa’s exact role wasn’t clear, there was sufficient evidence to believe military orders had been issued.
Oe, who has won a Nobel Prize for his writing, vows to continue the “fight against any moves that try to glorify the tragedy as a beautiful death.” His publishing company is also standing firm Oe will be vindicated and that publication of the book will continue. Iwanami Shoten Publishers is a co-defendant in the suit.
The book stirred major unrest last year as the Ministry of Education, responding to the suit by Umezawa and Akamatsu, ordered references to the military role in mass suicides on Okinawa be deleted from high school textbooks. Protests, rallies and demonstrations, including one last September in Okinawa that drew more than 100,000, forced the ministry to back down and permit text book publishers to reinsert the details in school books being published this month.

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