Almost four years and ten months after Ric O’Barry was deported from Japan, the decision of the Tokyo High Court to revoke the deportation order by the Ministry of Justice is now effective. Ric is free to return to Japan!
In a judgement for the case of O’Barry versus Japan, the court ruled in O’Barry’s favor, citing that both his denial of entry (dated January 20, 2016) and deportation (dated February 5, 2016) were without legal merit. The Japanese government attempted to appeal this decision, however, the Supreme Court did not accept the appeal. Thus, case closed!
“It is very rare for a Westerner to beat the Japanese government in a court of law. The reason we did is simple: these were trumped up charges. It was yet another attempt to silence me for speaking out against the annual Taiji dolphin slaughter. It’s a huge victory and could very well help others in the future. I look forward to returning to Japan and visiting with my lifelong Japanese friends when it is safe and permitted to do so.” ~ Ric O’Barry, Founder/Director of Dolphin Project
One of the main issues was whether O’Barry qualified for a “short stay” visa. The court determined that he did – citing that O’Barry’s explanation (during his oral hearing) was trustworthy, and consistent with his previous activity in Japan. Each of the additional government’s arguments were proven insufficient.
Three judges in Tokyo intelligently showed that Mr. O’ Barry is a peaceful and rule-abiding person and that Japan can be a democratic and an open-minded country that may accept diversified opinions.” ~ Takashi Takano, lawyer
On January 18, 2016, O’Barry was detained by Japanese immigration officials after arriving into Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. O’Barry was repeatedly interrogated, and placed in a deportees’ facility, similar to a jail. According to his lawyer, Takashi Takano, O’Barry was told he couldn’t enter Japan on a tourist visa as his tourist status was not “fully proven”. Two days after on January 20, 2016, the Japanese Ministry of Justice denied an appeal from O’Barry to enter the country. Immigration officers also issued an order of departure. O’Barry refused to leave, vowing to fight the deportation order. His lawyer filed a formal objection, with the decision to allow O’Barry into the country or deport him to be made by the Japanese government. Authorities refused to provide Takano with information to support their decision, and O’Barry’s refutal had not been accepted. While he was detained for questioning every time he visited Japan, nothing of this magnitude had ever happened before.
The days passed, with O’Barry (then 76 years of age) incarcerated and repeatedly interrogated in a Japanese detention center. His family worried for his health and safety. People from across the world contacted Dolphin Project, asking when he would be released. O’Barry had been traveling to Japan for years, and has many friends there. It is a country he loves dearly, always speaking about Japan with tremendous respect for its people. And, while wearing his activist “hat,” he always complied with Japanese law.
Lincoln O’Barry speaks with CNN International on Ric O’Barry’s ongoing detention in Tokyo, Japan.
— Slash (@Slash) January 21, 2016
Dr. Brian May
We’re very concerned. https://t.co/KDuBGvMzxF Ric is a prime mover bringing focus to bear on the awful dolphin slaughter in the Cove. Bri
— Dr. Brian May (@DrBrianMay) January 22, 2016
On February 5, 2016, 19 days after O’Barry was placed in detention, he was deported from Japan. Says Takano, “During this time, he [O’Barry] lost more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) and suffered from a minor chest problem. With regards to the refusal of his entry into the country and the reason for his detention, the Bureau’s explanation seems very obscure. “Tourism” is not just “sightseeing,” but also includes such activities as visits to places of disasters or holocaust. Mr. O’Barry’s visits to “The Cove” in Taiji and his reports on dolphin hunting should be considered a legitimate tourist activity.” Immediately, Dolphin Project’s legal team filed an objection, with a formal lawsuit following.
Dolphin Project would like to thank each and every person who has fought on Ric O’Barry’s behalf. Your tweets, emails, calls and donations made a difference! We would also like to thank Matt Sorum, Leilani Munter, Maisie Williams, Slash, Dr. Brian May and Tom & Kim Scholz. Thank you to Congressman Ted Lieu, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and The Law Offices of Takashi Takano.