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High court waffles on chopper crash lawsuit

Date Posted: 2009-01-23

Lawsuits connected with the crash of an American military helicopter onto the campus of Okinawa International University more than four years ago are still being challenged in court, with the Fukuoka High Court of Justice now reversing course on an earlier decision.

Ginowan City residents have protested the decisions of the U.S. and Japanese governments, which conducted the investigation into the August 2004 crash of a Marine Corps cargo helicopter and then refused to publicly release the findings. Lawsuits were filed and the government ruled “there’s no need to open information on the crash. It was done by the American side, soit is proper tht it is not open to everybody.”

The court ruled there was no need for an investigation paper called an ‘in camera trial’, but the Fukuoka High Court initially reversed that decision last May with a directive that questioned why involved parties could not witness or observe the evidence. The high court justice said there is a need for an ‘in camera trial’ and said letters should be submitted to the government to look at the evidence and get witnesses for a trial.

The latest turn, though, is a Fukuoka High Court order withdrawing the earlier order of last year. Justices in the high court have mixed views on what should happen next, with two of them saying “this case can be one that innovates the ‘in camera trial’ for opening information. There is no word yet when the high court will next make a statement on the case.

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