Hi Blog. Our Minister of Justice should be more careful about the company he keeps… and the conclusions he draws. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Hatoyama justifies taking prints with ‘friend of a friend’ in al-Qaida claim
Mainichi Shinbun Oct 29, 2007
Courtesy of FG
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s justice minister said Monday a “friend of a friend” who belonged to al-Qaida was able to sneak into the country with false passports and disguises, proving Tokyo needs to fingerprint and photograph arriving foreigners.
Japan will begin imposing the new measures on Nov. 20 on all foreigners entering the country aged 16 or over to guard against terrorism, in a move critics say will fail to protect the country and will violate human rights.
Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, however, told reporters that he had personal knowledge of how terrorists can infiltrate the country, citing an unidentified “friend of a friend” who was involved in a bomb attack on the Indonesian island of Bali.
“I have never met this person, but until two or three years ago, it seems this person was visiting Japan often. And each time he arrived in Japan, he used a different passport,” Hatoyama said.
The justice minister added that his friend, whom he also did not identify, had warned him to stay away from the center of Bali.
Hatoyama did not specify which of two Bali bomb attacks — in 2002 and 2005 — he was referring to. Nor did he say whether the warning came before a bombing, or whether he alerted Indonesian officials.
Indonesian police have said the 2002 bombings that killed 202 people were carried out with funds and direction from al-Qaida. A splinter group of the Southeast Asian terror organization Jemaah Islamiyah allegedly carried out the 2005 attacks independently.
“The fact is that such foreign people can easily enter Japan,” Hatoyama said. “In terms of security, this is not a preferable situation.”
“I know this may cause a lot of inconvenience, but it’s very necessary to fight terror,” Hatoyama said of the fingerprinting measures. “Japan may also become a victim of a terrorist attack.”
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said he hoped Hatoyama’s al-Qaida connection would not re-enter Japan.
“I hope he’ll deal with this issue firmly through immigration controls now that he’s justice minister,” Fukuda said.
Critics have blasted the new fingerprinting measures, which only exempt some permanent residents, diplomatic visitors and children.
“The introduction of this system is a violation of basic human rights, especially the right to privacy,” said Makoto Teranaka, secretary-general of the human rights group Amnesty International Japan.
He said it unfairly targets foreigners since Japanese could also be criminals or terrorists.
Under the new regulations, all adults will be photographed and fingerprinted on arrival in Japan, according to the country’s Immigration Bureau. Incoming aircraft and ship operators also will be obliged to provide passenger and crew lists before they arrive.
Resident foreigners will be required to go through the procedure every time they re-enter Japan, the bureau said. Immigration officials will compare the images and data with a database of international terror and crime suspects as well as domestic crime records. People matching the data on file will be denied entry and deported.
Similar measures have been introduced in the United States.
Tokyo’s support of the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and dispatch of forces to each region have raised concerns that Japan could become a target of terror attacks.
Fingerprinting carries a strong stigma in Japan because it is associated with criminals.
Japan previously fingerprinted foreign residents, but that system was abolished in 1999 following civil rights campaigns involving Japan’s large Korean and Chinese communities.
Barry Steinhardt, of the American Civil Liberties Union, speaks at an FCCJ press conference in Tokyo Monday, Oct. 29, 2007. Japan is to launch new regulations for foreigners entering the country starting Nov. 20, which will require all adults ages 16 or over to be photographed and fingerprinted upon arrival in Japan. Steinhardt said a similar measure introduced in the United States in 2004 US-VISIT, which stands for U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology, has been an ineffective tracking measure. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)