Tokyo court awards damages to female journalist in rape case

TOKYO (AP) — A Tokyo court awarded damages to a freelance journalist yesterday in a high-profile rape case that involves an attacker known for his close ties with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ultra-conservative supporters.

The Tokyo District Court ordered former television newsman Noriyuki Yamaguchi to pay JPY3.3 million (USD30,150) to freelance journalist Shiori Ito for physical and psychological pain resulting from his sexual assault. Ito filed a civil suit in 2017, demanding JPY11 million (USD100,540) in damages for her suffering and seeking an explanation why Yamaguchi was never arrested and prosecutors dropped the criminal case.

Yamaguchi has denied any wrongdoing in published articles and on social media.

He filed a countersuit this year, demanding she pay JPY130 million (USD1.2 million) for allegedly damaging his reputation and trust by publicising him as a rapist. The court entirely dismissed Yamaguchi’s claims.

The #MeToo movement is still only beginning to catch on in Japan, where speaking out often draws criticism rather than sympathy, even from other women. In Ito’s case, ultra-conservative supporters came to Yamaguchi’s defence. Ito and her supporters said they hope her victory would be a step toward promoting awareness in a society where victims like her wouldn’t have to feel intimidated and isolated.

Judge Akihiro Suzuki said Ito’s attempt to seek the truth in the case and how it was handled, and to promote awareness about social and legal issues surrounding assault victims, is based on her intent to serve public interest and does not constitute defamation against the defendant.