3. Questions and Answers when going to a demonstration
Q13: What do I have to consider when going to a demonstration?
The police observe demonstrations and await every opportunity to arrest protesters. So it is important for you to consider the following points.
Wear comfortable and firm-fitting shoes and clothing that doesn't expose much of your skin. There will be security police officers photographing the protesters (lately they use digital cameras), so if you do not want to be photographed, wear sunglasses, masks and hats. Take only as few things as necessary to the demo, such as a handkerchief, tissues and cash. Everything you carry will be taken away by the police during your detention if you are arrested. However, make sure to carry your passport in case a police officer questions you.
Try not to be alone at the demo. Make sure you are with at least a few other people.
Q14: What am I prohibited to take to the demo? Can I wear protective gear? Can I carry flag poles?
Prohibited objects are listed in the written permission of the demo. Please ask the organisers of the demo beforehand. It is not prohibited to cover your face or wear protective gear. However, dangerous objects are generally prohibited. Flag poles are usually not prohibited, but depending on how you use it, it can be considered a dangerous object.
Q15: Am I allowed to organise or participate at unpermitted or spontaneous demos?
No. In order to organise a demo in Japan, you have to apply for a permit at least 72 hours before the demo. Unpermitted demos and assemblies are subject to police intervention.
Q16: What kind of different types of police observe the demo? How do I recognize them? Do they have different rights?
There are 2 different types of police officers, the riot police and other police officers. They have the same rights, but the riot police are heavily equipped. There are also plainclothes officers of the Public Security Intelligence Agency („secret police“) who walk on the pavement and collect information and photograph/film the protesters. They do not have the right to interfere directly in the demo.
Q17: What rights do I have if photographed or filmed by the police or the media? Can I photograph or film the police officers?
According to the Supreme Court, everybody has the freedom not to be filmed or photographed without permission. However, there is an important exception to the above right, if
- a crime is apparently being committed or apparently has been committed,
- and the conservation of evidence is immediately necessary,
- and the filming or photographing does not exceed the generally
In such cases, the police can photograph or film a person without her or his consent and without the written permission of the judge. (Supreme Court, Superior Ruling of December 24, 1969)
For instance, if someone acts against the conditions of the permission of the demonstration, the police might take pictures of her or him in the act of violating the so-called Public Safety Ordinance which rules the legal conditions of a demonstration.
Irrespective of the opinion of the Supreme Court, the security police photograph and film people just for walking on the public street.
If police officers photograph/film you with disregard for the above conditions imposed by the Supreme Court, you can protest their actions. In severe cases, you can file a suit for compensation.
If you are filmed by the media, you can protest. However, taking part at a demo and exposing oneself to the public can be interpreted as a tacit consent to being photographed and filmed.
There are court decisions that police officers and other government employees on duty do not have "portrait rights" (the right that people may assert not to have their picture taken, published, or otherwise disseminated) while on duty.
Q18: What are the conditions of an arrest?
There are two different situations at a demo where an arrest can take place:
1. In flagrant delict, which means if the police officer recognizes that someone is in fact committing a crime or someone has in fact just finished committing a crime.
2. In quasi-flagrant delict, which means if the police officer recognizes clearly that a crime has just been finished,
a) people call after a person that she or he is the offender of the crime, OR
b) a person possesses a stolen or any other illegally obtained object, or a
weapon or any other object which was apparently used for the crime, OR
c) if there are traces of evidence at the body or at the clothes of a person
that she or he has committed a crime, OR
d) if someone runs away after being questioned by a police officer.
If you feel unjustly arrested, say to the police officer that there is no reason to arrest you, and protest the arrest. Also, try to appeal to the passers-by and ask them to help you.
If you get arrested, tell the people your name and ask them to organise
Q19: What are the common charges when arrested on demos?
Common charges are: obstructing official duties, trespassing, violation of Road Traffic Act, obstructing business by force, but any other minor crime can provide justification for an arrest. Police also invent crimes from time to time.
Q20: What happens if I am arrested?
Once you are arrested, you are handcuffed and taken to the nearby police station.
At the police station, the police make a "deposition of pleading" which is a written statement of what you say about the accusations.
The procedure is as follows:
1. They tell you what facts you are accused of.
2. They ask you whether you admit these facts.
3. Then they make a document about what you say.
4. And ask you to sign and to place your seal (sign) on the document.
At this point, the police tell you that you have the right to appoint a lawyer. You have no right to a phone call, so that you cannot call for a lawyer by yourself. But you can ask the police officer to call for a lawyer. There are two different possibilities to choose a lawyer:
You can ask for a duty lawyer, in Japanese tôban bengoshi. A duty lawyer is organised by the the local bar association which is an organisation of local lawyers. The local bar association holds a list of local lawyers who serve as a duty lawyer . Of all these listed lawyers, the one who is on duty on the day of your request will come to meet you. The first consultation by the duty lawyer is for free.
You can imagine the duty lawyer as an emergency doctor who gives you a first-aid treatment. The duty lawyer interviews the arrested person in the absence of police officers and listens to what the arrestee says, gives her or him explanation
about her or his rights and the legal procedure and she or he arranges communication between the arrestee and the outside world. If you have invitation groups or other groups who are in charge of taking care of you, ask the duty lawyer to contact them on your behalf.
After the first meeting with the duty lawyer, if you wish to continue to have a legal support by that lawyer during the investigation, you have to appoint the duty lawyer as a private defense lawyer and, basically, pay money. However, it is possible to make use of financial aid. See Q10 for details.
Instead of the duty lawyer, you can also appoint a lawyer who is chosen by the Kyûen Renraku Center („Support Contact Center“, tel. 03-3591-1301), an organisation which specializes in organising support for arrested activists. See Q9 for the difference between the duty lawyer and the lawyer chosen by the Kyûen Renraku Center.
If you want to ask for a duty lawyer, just say to the police officer that you want him to call for a duty lawyer. Then the police will contact the nearby bar association which will send a duty lawyer and an interpreter to you on the same day or on the next at the latest.
If you want to appoint a lawyer chosen by the Kyûen Renraku Center, just say so to the police officer. In this case, the police will contact the Kyûen Renraku Center.
Besides, not only the arrested person, but also her or his friends and supporters can make a direct phone call in order to ask for a lawyer.
Sapporo Bar Association 011-272-1010
Kyûen Renraku Center 03-3591-1301
WATCH 080-3410-2780 (for questions)
Before you enter the cell, your body and personal belongings will be searched, and everything you have (including your watch and belt) will be taken away until you are freed. Mobile phones can be seized as evidence, which means the police can keep them for a while even after your release. If the police try to take away your glasses, you should say that you need them and protest clearly.
You also get photographed and fingerprinted, which you cannot refuse.
Q21: What is the difference between the duty lawyer and the lawyer chosen by the Kyûen Renraku Center? Who schould I ask for?
The lawyer chosen by the Kyûen Renraku Center is experienced in advocating for activists who are arrested for political activism, whereas there is no guarantee that the duty lawyer has experiences and understanding in that area.
However, lawyers who work with the Kyûen Renraku Center are mostly located in Tokyo, so in Hokkaido, the support by the Kyûen Renraku Center may be limited. Also, for people who do not speak Japanese, it might be also difficult for the Kyûen Renraku Center to organise an interpreter. So, if an international activist is arrested in Hokkaido, it might be better for her or him to ask for a duty lawyer, because the local bar association is more likely to be able to send you an interpreter along with the duty lawyer.
Q22: Can I make use of financial aid to pay the lawyer’s fee?
In general, if someone is arrested at a demo, the organiser of the demo will organise a support group for her or him. This support group will collect donations to help you pay your lawyer.
Apart from that, each local bar association offers financial aid. For details, please ask the duty lawyer or any other lawyer you choose.
Q23: Can I contact the consular representative of my country after my arrest?
Non-Japanese have the right to contact the consular representative of her or his country if detained. For practical purposes, the police station has a form to ask the arrestee whether she or he wants to contact the consul. The consular representative can help you contact your family in your country, to organise documents from your country, find an interpreter, etc.
Q24: Do I have the right to remain silent? In which aspects can I remain silent?
You have the right to remain completely silent if you want, but the Supreme Court does not recognize a right to remain silent concerning your name. (Supreme Court, Superior Ruling of February 20, 1957)
However, if you are not a Japanese citizen and the police take away your passport, they will know your name, date of birth, nationality, etc. anyhow, so there may be no meaning in you remaining silent about these topics. Apart from that, you do not have to tell to the police where you are staying at in Japan.
During the questioning, do not confess to anything that you did not do. Once a confession is made, it will be used as an evidence against you, and it is extremely difficult to discredit the confession later in court. It is therefore very dangerous to think that you can lie during the questioning but tell the truth at the trial.
Q25: Will there be an interpreter when the police officer questions me?
- there is no interpreter to translate the interrogation into your first
- the interpreter is not good enough, OR
- you have doubts about the ability or the fairness of an interpreter,
you may refuse to cooperate with the questioning and ask for a reliable interpreter or a lawyer.
Q26: How does the criminal procedure go on after the arrest?
You are handed over to the Public Prosecutor's Office within 48 hours after the arrest, then, within another 24 hours, the public prosecutor has to decide whether to submit a request to the judge to detain you. If the judge approves the request, you can be kept in detention for basically 10 days, but the detention may be extended for another 10 days.
In some cases, you can be released earlier than after 23 days, but please do not believe that you will not be kept for such a long time just because you are a Non-Japanese.
Within 20 days after the approval of the detention by the judge, you must be released unless the prosecutor indicts you.
If you are indicted, your detention continues until the end of the trial, unless you request to be released on bail and pay the bail upon the approval of your request.
The first court session will be held about one and a half months after the indictment. If the procedure terminates in one session, the decision of the court will pronounce the judgment in the second court session within another 2 weeks.
Q27: Where will the arrestee be detained?
The arrestees are kept in a police cell even after the judge's decision of detention, a practice which is called the "substitute prison" and criticised internationally.
During the detention, you will be under total control of the police and may be subject to long-hour questionings which can continue after 9 p.m. when the sleeping hours start.
Q28: Who am I allowed to meet after I am arrested?
In most of the cases, the judge decides to forbid you to have any contact with anyone other than the lawyer and to receive anything from outside the detention facilities. In this case, you have to ask the lawyer to visit you frequently so that you can have contact with the people outside.
Q29: What can I do if I want to appeal my detention?
You can file complaints against the judge's decision to detain you and to extend your detention. However, there is little chance for you to be released.
But it is possible that the complaints might help reduce the duration of the detention.
You can request that the judge who decided to detain you explain the reasons of the detention in a public court session only once during your detention. Everyone can attend this session and sometimes the media come to cover the session. In this proceeding, the detainee and his or her lawyer have the opportunity to give statements and denounce the unjust detention.
Q30: Are there any criminal procedures other than court trials?
If the criminal procedure concerns a fine under 100 million yen, the judge can fix a fine just after the examination of the documents. This summary procedure is only possible if you have confessed to the crime. If you pay the fine, you will be released.
Q31: Will I be deported if I am arrested? When will it happen?
If a Non-Japanese is arrested in a criminal case, the criminal procedure has priority towards the deportation or other procedures covered under the Immigration Law. Even if you want to go back to your country, it is not possible until the criminal case has been terminated.
If you are indicted and sentenced to prison without suspension, basically, you have to stay in a Japanese prison.
If you are arrested, you do not lose your resident status automatically. But it can happen that you have to stay longer in Japan than you were initially approved by the immigration authorities due to the criminal case. In such cases, upon the termination of the criminal case, you will be immediately put into a special facility and subject to deportation, even if you are not indicted, or exonerated, or given a suspended sentence or even if the execution of the sentence is terminated. Once a deportation procedure has commenced, the concerned person will actually be deported. In very rare
cases, the Minister of Justice can grant a special permission to stay.
3. Questions and Answers when going to a demonstration