Himu Case: Tokyo District Court orders Sankei Shinbun to pay NJ damages for reporting erroneous al-Qaeda link


Hi Blog. We’ve had enough rotten news recently. Now for some good news.

A Bangladeshi by the name of Islam Himu (whom I’ve met–he’s on my mailing lists) was accused during the al-Qaeda Scare of 2005 of being part of a terrorist cell. And the media, particularly the Sankei, reported him by name as such. Detained for more than a month by the cops, he emerged to find his reputation in tatters, his business rent asunder, and his life irrevocably changed.

This is why you don’t report rumor as fact in the established media. And as we saw in the Sasebo Shootings a few days ago, the papers and the powers that be won’t take reponsibility even when they get it wrong.

So Mr Himu sued the Sankei. And won. Congratulations. A good precedent. Now if only could get the Japanese police to take responsibility when they overdo things. Well, we can dream.

News article, referential Japan Times piece, and other background follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Sankei newspaper ordered to compensate foreigner over Al Qaeda slur
(Mainichi Japan) December 11, 2007

The Sankei newspaper has been ordered by the Tokyo District Court to pay a foreigner 3.3 million yen in compensation for implying he was linked to Al Qaeda and plotting a terrorist attack.

The court found the paper had defamed 37-year-old company president Islam Mohamed Himu of Toda, Saitama Prefecture, and ordered it to compensate him.

“It was inappropriate to publish his name,” Presiding Judge Hitomi Akiyoshi said as she handed down the ruling.

Sankei officials said they were not sure how the company will react to the case.

“We want to take a close look at the ruling before deciding how to respond,” a Sankei spokesman said.

Court records showed that Himu was arrested in 2004 for forgery and fined 300,000 yen. The day after his arrest, the Sankei ran a front page story under the headline “Underground bank produces terror funds, man with links to top terrorists arrested.”

Sankei proceeded to write that Himu had links to high-ranking Al Qaeda members and was suspected of involvement in procuring funds for terrorism.

Alleged al-Qaeda link seeks vindication
Bangladeshi wants apology, claims he was falsely accused by police, press
The Japan Times April 2, 2005

A Bangladeshi businessman who was incorrectly alleged by police and the media last year as being linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist network is seeking vindication.

Investigators held Islam Mohamed Himu for 43 days but ultimately found he had no links to al-Qaeda.

Himu said that even since being freed, he has struggled to get his life and business back on track. He has filed a complaint of human rights violations with the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

“I want to ask senior officials of the government or police: what was my fault?” Himu said in an interview.

“The Japanese police and media have destroyed my life,” said the 34-year-old, who runs a telecommunications company in Tokyo.

“I want them to apologize and restore my life,” he said, urging the government to help him obtain visas to make business trips to several countries that have barred his entry following the allegations.

Himu came to Japan in 1995 with his Japanese wife, whom he had met in Canada. After establishing a firm in Tokyo that mainly sells prepaid international phone cards, he obtained permanent residency in 2000.

Police arrested him last May 26 and issued a fresh warrant June 16. They alleged he had falsified a corporate registration and illegally hired two employees, including his brother.

While in custody, investigators mostly asked if he had any links to al-Qaeda, noting that a Frenchman suspected of being in al-Qaeda bought prepaid phone cards from him several times, according to Himu.

He said he tried to prove he had no connection with terrorists, telling police the Frenchman was one of several hundred customers and he had no idea the man used an alias.

However, police dismissed his claim, he said, and leaked to major media organizations, including Kyodo, their suspicions that he was involved with al-Qaeda, and all of them reported the allegations.

Himu said he believes police arrested him as a scapegoat even though they knew he had no link with al-Qaeda.

He was nabbed shortly after the media reported that the Frenchman had stayed in Japan in 2002 and 2003.

Prosecutors did not indict him on the first charge, while a court fined him 300,000 yen on the second charge. He was released on July 7.

Himu said the prosecutors’ failure to indict proves he was not an al-Qaeda member, but it did not necessarily constitute a public apology.

All his employees left following the release of the sketchy police information, and he now has 120 million yen in debts due to the disruption of his business, he claimed.

The Japan Times: Saturday, April 2, 2005


Japan Times and Asia Times articles on 2004 police Al-Qaeda witch hunt, Himu Case, and police detentions in Japan.


2 comments on “Himu Case: Tokyo District Court orders Sankei Shinbun to pay NJ damages for reporting erroneous al-Qaeda link

  • A positive verdict is good. I just don’t know how much of a deterrant 3.3 million yen is to a large newspaper. And it must hardly seem like a ‘victory’ to Mr. Himu when his alledged debts from the wrongfull accusation stand at 120 million yen.

    Another case where everybody loses, but the individual suffers more than the corporation.

  • Not to rain on the parade, but the typically minuscule damages awarded are not punitive and probably don’t even approach what Mr. Himu had to pay in court costs, much less deterring Sankei from doing this again or helping to compensate him for his losses.

    One of Japan’s biggest shortcomings is the lack of effectively punitive civil libel laws. If anything, this case shows that there’s really no reason not to engage in wanton libel and/or slander – there’s really no drawback and it sure moves papers.

    I would even go so far as to say the division of libel into criminal and civil with civil penalties being so small and non-monetary decisions never being enforced creates a legal environment that sends one clear message: there’s nothing wrong with libel.



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