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Tokyo Court Rules Govt. Refusal to Issue Passport for Journalist Junpei Yasuda Illegal; After He Returned from Captivity in Syria

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Junpei Yasuda speaks during an interview in November 2018.

The Tokyo District Court has ruled that it was illegal for the government to refuse to issue a new passport for freelance journalist Junpei Yasuda who was held hostage in Syria.

Yasuda, 49, who returned to Japan after being freed from militant captivity in Syria in October 2018, filed a lawsuit claiming it is illegal that the government refused to issue him a new passport. “It is illegal for the government to deny a passport,” the judge said in the ruling Thursday. The Passport Law stipulates that a passport may not be issued to a person who is not permitted to enter the country of destination.

According to the ruling, Yasuda’s belongings were taken by an armed group in Syria. He applied for a new passport after returning to Japan. In July 2019, the Foreign Ministry refused to issue him a new passport because he was banned from entering Turkey, the transit country for his entry into Syria.

The court noted that it was an abuse of discretion for the Foreign Ministry to also restrict travel to countries other than Turkey and its surrounding countries, given that there are “limited passports” that specify travel to individual destinations.

The judge ruled that the ministry’s refusal to issue the passport should be revoked.