The government has confiscated the passport of a Japanese man who refused to give up his plan to travel to Syria after Foreign Ministry officials asked him not to go.
The man, Yuichi Sugimoto, 58, is a freelance photographer from Niigata City. Sugimoto criticized the government's action on Sunday, calling it a violation of his freedom of speech, NTV reported.
The Japanese government issued a travel alert about Syria back in 2011 and has strongly advised its citizens not to go there. However, it is not against the law if a citizen decides to go and this is the first time that a Japanese citizen's passport has been confiscated.
The move comes after two Japanese nationals were beheaded by Islamic State militants after being taken hostage in Syria. One of them, freelance journalist Kenji Goto, had been asked three times by the Foreign Ministry last year not to go to Syria, but he went anyway, saying in a video that he accepted full responsibility if anything happened to him.
NHK said Sunday that the government became aware of Sugimoto's plan to visit Syria after reading about his plans in a newspaper. Sugimoto said he had planned to take photos of the refugee situation near the Syrian-Turkish border and would not have gone to areas controlled by Islamic State.
There have been other cases of Japanese citizens wanting to go to Syria recently. Last October, police talked a 26-year-old Japanese Muslim out of trying to join Islamic State jihadists in Syria. The man, a student at Hokkaido University, had reportedly planned to fly to the Middle East to fight with the Islamic extremist group, which has cut a swathe through Syria and Iraq.
However, he dropped his plan after police warned that his passport would be confiscated and he could be subject to criminal charges.
Under Japanese law, it is illegal to prepare or plot to wage war against a foreign state in a personal capacity.© Japan Today