The Tokyo Family Court ruled Thursday that a Japanese woman who ran off with her children and refused to let her French husband see them has the rights to their custody, in a dispute which led French authorities to issue an international arrest warrant for the woman last year.
Though similar disputes involving Japanese married to foreign nationals are not rare, the issue drew public attention after the French man Vincent Fichot staged a hunger strike near the National Stadium ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 to raise awareness of his situation.
In the suit, filed by his Japanese wife, the court also granted her divorce from Fichot. Fichot's lawyer said he will appeal the ruling.
Presiding Judge Yasushi Ogawara said, however, the woman should let Fichot see their two children and asked the couple to discuss what is best for the children.
Fichot, 40, married the woman in 2009 and the two had been living in Tokyo. She ran off with the children in August 2018.
The woman claimed she suffered domestic violence while they lived together, but the court did not recognize that abuse occurred.
French President Emmanuel Macron raised the issue with then Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in their talks during his visit to Japan for the Olympics.
In October 2021, a Paris court issued the arrest warrant for the Japanese woman for alleged parental child abduction, though Japan and France have no agreement regarding the handover of crime suspects.
Japan does not recognize joint custody of children after parents' divorce.
Fichot claimed that granting the woman the rights to the children's custody would invite international criticism, but the court concluded there was no problem with the way she looked after them.
The woman told Kyodo News, "I am relieved that I can continue to live with my children as I have, even though it is regrettable that the court did not recognize domestic violence."
Fichot, meanwhile, told reporters in Tokyo that he will continue to fight for the right to see his children.