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Japan court rules in favor of Sri Lankans over rights to fair trial

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The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of two Sri Lankans who had demanded 10 million yen ($91,000) in damages from Japanese immigration authorities for infringing on their rights to undergo a trial in Japan.

The court ordered the state to pay a total of 600,000 yen to the Sri Lankans, overturning a lower court ruling that rejected the plaintiffs’ claim for the damages.

“The two men were effectively deprived of the opportunity to stand trial to see if they were qualified as refugees,” Yutaka Hirata, presiding judge of the high court, said in handing down the ruling.

The court acknowledged the plaintiffs’ claim that the Tokyo Regional Immigration Services Bureau violated their rights to face trial ensured under the Constitution.

According to the ruling, the plaintiffs applied for asylum between 2011 and 2012 but were rejected. They appealed the decision.

But they were deported along with other Sri Lankans by a chartered plane on 18 December 2014, a day after the immigration authorities told them their appeal was rejected.

Speaking after the ruling, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said, “(The plaintiffs) wanted to bring their case to court, but they were forcibly deported.”

“It is a very meaningful decision that deals a hard blow to the immigration authorities’ approach” to the Sri Lankans, the lawyer told reporters.

In February last year, the Tokyo District Court dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand, saying the immigration bureau did not have a duty to tell authorities to withhold the two’s deportation just because they expressed intent to file a lawsuit.

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