Tokyo, Japan: On November 22, 2002, the Supreme Court of Japan upheld lower court decisions which found that tabloid weekly Shukan Shincho's publisher, Shinchosha, its former editor-in-chief Hiroshi Matsuda, and freelance writer Masao Okkotsu had libeled Soka Gakkai in two articles published in July 1999.
Soka Gakkai had filed suit over two Shukan Shincho articles, which claimed that the lay Buddhist group had indulged in land speculation in Tokyo's North Shinjuku area in order to reap a windfall for itself. In justifying the dismissal of the defendants' appeal, the Supreme Court upheld earlier Tokyo District Court and High Court judgments which found that the articles in question "were insufficiently researched to the extreme," and that there was "no evidence to support the key claims made in the articles." The court ordered Shinchosha to pay 4 million yen (approx. US$36,000) in damages, of which Okkotsu should pay 1 million yen, and requested that Shukan Shincho publish an apology and retraction.
"Over the years, Shukan Shincho's stories have trampled upon the civil rights of many individuals, and ridiculed movements which protect vulnerable groups in Japanese society. Soka Gakkai members experience considerable discrimination because of the publication of groundless stories such as these by Mr. Okkotsu and other journalists who seem to thrive on manufactured scandal. We are glad to see the truth of this matter clarified in the courts," comments Soka Gakkai spokesperson Rie Tsumura.
In a separate action, on September 18, the Tokyo District Court also ruled that Masao Okkotsu was liable for defaming Soka Gakkai in a speech made at a Buddhist association in Wakayama Prefecture in August 1999, in which he claimed that Soka Gakkai had set up two front companies to make money from real estate set aside for construction of a cemetery, and had used the proceeds illegally. During the trial, despite the judge's repeated requests, Okkotsu was unable to submit evidence corroborating his allegations. The judge ordered Okkotsu to pay Soka Gakkai 500,000 yen (approx. US$450,000) in damages.