Three residents of Japan with foreign roots filed a suit Monday against the central and local governments over alleged racial profiling by police, seeking 3.3 million yen ($22,000) in damages per person.

The three men in their 20s to 50s have all lived in Japan over 10 years and are either naturalized citizens or permanent residents, and have repeatedly been questioned by police because of their ethnicity or appearance, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs are suing the central, Tokyo metropolitan and Aichi prefectural governments at the Tokyo District Court, claiming such police questioning is an act of discrimination and violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which stipulates there shall be no discrimination based on race or family origin.

A Pakistan-born man who later acquired Japanese citizenship (L) speaks at a press conference on Jan. 29, 2024, after filing a suit at the Tokyo District Court seeking damages for alleged racial profiling by police. (Kyodo)

One of the plaintiffs -- who lives in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture -- said at a press conference that there were occasions when he had been stopped by police twice in a day.

The 26-year-old, who was born in Pakistan and moved to Japan when he was 8 years old, said on one occasion he was stopped for questioning as soon as he stepped out of his house and asked if his belongings could be searched.

"There may be a perception that foreigners in Japan tend to commit crimes, and I would like for that to change," he said. "The time has come to rethink the way police questioning is handled."

Another plaintiff said he had been stopped on the road while driving his car or riding his motorbike in Tokyo and questioned by police, despite not having committed any traffic violations.

The plaintiffs claimed it was clear the Japanese police were engaging in racial profiling, as evidenced by training materials for police officers encouraging questioning based on appearance.

The plaintiffs also argued that through their actions police were defying international conventions against discrimination, and sought confirmation that the central government is obliged to oversee action toward rectifying the situation.