Osaka Court Rejects Anti-Fingerprinting Suit

By Brian Covert
Staff Writer

The Osaka District Court rejected an anti-fingerprinting lawsuit by a Canadian missionary Tuesday, dismissing the rights of foreign residents in Japan to challenge the fingerprinting policies of the Ministry of Justice.

In his ruling, presiding Judge Masaaki Fukutomi stated that the Alien Registration Law allowing such fingerprinting is not a violation of the Constitution, and is a reasonable system of administrative use over foreigners living in Japan.

The judgment capped a seven-year legal battle by the Rev. John H. McIntosh, 58, who had been seeking to nullify the Osaka Immigration Bureau’s refusal of his requests for a visa extension and re-entry into Japan in 1986 in connection with a one-year return to Canada.

McIntosh has maintained that the bureau’s refusal had been an unlawful use of discretion against his pro-Korean, anti-fingerprinting activities and a violation of his international human rights.

“I was very, very disappointed by the decision,” McIntosh said. “But this just serves to light a fire under the issue. I will continue fighting for people who are suffering discrimination.”

Fukutomi reluctantly began the 10-minute final session Tuesday by handing over the 180-page judgment to McIntosh’s chief attorney, Katsuyuki Kumano, and asking him to read it first.

Kumano responded: “We’d like to ask you to explain it yourself in easy terms to the audience.” Fukutomi then read the key points. McIntosh’s lawyers later blasted the judge for what was considered his “rude” behavior.

One of the four key points in Fukutomi’s ruling was the dismissal of the human rights aspect on which McIntosh had based his case, saying that McIntosh’s religious beliefs appeared to be the basis for his activities and that the fingerprinting law does not restrict religious freedom in Japan.

In a press conference after the ruling, McIntosh, often holding back tears, called the decision a step backward in Japan’s treatment of foreigners in general and ethnic Korean residents in particular.

“The Japanese government does not take into account the human rights of non-Japanese citizens,” he said. “We need to change the Japanese Constitution” to reflect those rights.

McIntosh, a Presbyterian missionary who has been in Japan since 1961 and was later called to work with the Korean Christian Church in Japan, is a well-known resident of Ikuno-ku, home of the largest Korean population in Japan.

He has long been an outspoken advocate of human rights for Koreans in Japan, and in I985 he refused to be fingerprinted under the Alien Registration Law as a show of support with other Korean protesters.

When immigration authorities cited his fingerprinting refusal as grounds to reject his re-entry visa, McIntosh filed a lawsuit against the Justice Ministry in February 1987.

McIntosh said he plans to return to Canada, and that his lawyers will consider whether to appeal the verdict.