A Japanese court on Friday ordered a man to pay a fine of 300,000 yen ($2,700) for making derogatory remarks against a Korean resident of Japan in racist posts on Twitter.
The Kawasaki Summary Court imposed the fine after the 51-year-old man was found by prosecutors to have violated a local ordinance in Kanagawa Prefecture that bans troublesome behavior. It is the first time a criminal punishment has been imposed for hate speech under such an ordinance, the victim's lawyer said.
"While a criminal penalty serves as a deterrent to an extent, only a small fraction of the damage has been addressed. There need to be laws to punish discrimination itself," the lawyer, Yasuko Morooka, said during a press conference held in Tokyo.
According to the indictment, the man posted hateful remarks directed at Choi Kang I Ja, a 46-year-old resident of Kawasaki in the prefecture, on Twitter four times between June 2016 and September 2017. Choi's lawyer said the two had never met.
The posts consisted of remarks such as "the craftiness of showing off their ethnicity pisses me off," and "I won't tolerate Koreans living carefree in Japan behind the shield of discrimination. I don't recognize any of their rights."
Police had referred the man to prosecutors for alleged intimidation. But they decided not to indict him in February.
Choi then filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors for a suspected breach of the ordinance.
Choi started being harassed online after she advocated against hate speech using her real name in March 2016. The harassment continued until police searched the man's house in December 2017, according to Morooka.
"It has been a long three and a half years. Even though the posts were written anonymously, (the offender) was identified and he has finally been held criminally responsible," Choi told the press conference with tears in her eyes.
Earlier this month, Kawasaki became the first municipality in Japan to pass an ordinance bill imposing criminal penalties for hate speech. The new ordinance, to enter into force on July 1, 2020, bans discriminatory language and actions against those from countries or regions other than Japan in public spaces. It makes repeat violations punishable by a fine of up to 500,000 yen.