by Ming Pao reporter Sum Fei-fung in Nanjing
In March 1998, in the appellate trial, the Japanese Supreme Court is going to hand down a decision on the libel suit against a former Japanese imperial soldier Shiro Azuma, who published his diary on the Nanjing Massacre committed by the Japanese army during invasion to China in WWII. Yesterday (Oct. 7, 1996) Shiro Azuma's two lawyers came to Nanjing to gather evidence for the defense. They got tremendous support from the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall and the Nanjing citizens. His lawyers expressed that since Shiro Azuma lost the first trial, the Supreme Court rarely goes against a previous judgment. They are worried that the Japanese right wing will use this case to refute the Nanjing Massacre that caused the horrible death of more than 300,000 people.
Shiro Azuma was a soldier at the time when the Japanese invaded China. He is now 86 years old. At the end of 1987 he made public his diary entered on December 21, 1937 about the Nanjing Massacre. The diary recorded how a group leader put a Nanjing citizen into a big mail bag. The leader then cool bloodedly exploded the bag with its live victim on its way into a pond by tying the bag to a grenade. After the diary was made public, with the support of the right wing group Kaikosya, the group leader charged Shiro Azuma with libel. and completely denied that he had committed any war crimes. His argument was that a mail bag would not hold a person; the crime spot that is near Nanjing's Supreme Court does not have any pond; and there is no eye witnesses.
At 9:00 am yesterday, the curator of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, Tsu Cheng-shen provided a great number of physical evidence to help the Japanese lawyers. They included seven Nanjing maps dated December, 1937 and two aerial photos. They proved that there were three ponds in the areas. Military maps used by the Japanese army during invasion were among the maps provided. Tsu Cheng-shen also gave a 1.5 meter rail mail bag to the Japanese lawyers proving that it can hold the victim. There were also statements from 26 area residents who lived close to the crime spot in Nanjing then stating that they witnessed similar cruel war crimes committed by the Japanese army. Shiro Azuma's defense lawyer Nakakitaryutaro said, "The reason why Shiro Azuma lost the first trial in April is because the trial judge at the Tokyo Area Court has no understanding of the history of the Nanjing Massacre and was confounded by the right wing group's lies." According to Nakakitaryutaro, the judgment departed from the principle of respecting historical facts.
Another defense lawyer Sorano Yoshihiro added, "In the past the way that the right wingers refute the Nanjing Massacre was by denying small facts here and there." If Shiro Azuma lost the cas, the right wing plot of rewriting history would receive a big boost.
Sorano Yoshihiro expressed that because the war crime happened close to sixty years ago it is very difficult to find Chinese citizens or Japanese soldiers who witnessed the murders. They will have to rely on physical evidence to substantiate the facts in the diary. They are not optimistic about the appeal results because the Supreme Court rarely overturns an Area Court's judgment. He hopes that he will continually receive help from all those concerned so that the Japanese people can understand the War Crimes committed by the Japanese Army at that time, and avoid the repeat of the tragic history.