High Treason Incident

High Treason Incident

The nihongo|High Treason Incident|大逆事件|Taigyaku Jiken, also known as the nihongo|Kotoku Incident|幸徳事件|Kōtoku Jiken, was a socialist-anarchist plot to assassinate the Japanese Emperor Meiji in 1910, leading to a mass arrest of leftists, and the execution of 12 alleged conspirators in 1911.Nish, Ian Hill and Cortazzi, Hugh. "Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits". Japan Society Publications, 2002. p. 338]

On 20 May 1910, the police searched the room of Miyashita Takichi (1875-1911), a young lumbermill employee in Nagano Prefecture, and found materials which could be used to construct bombs. Investigating further, the police arrested his accomplices, Nitta Toru (1880-1911), Niimura Tadao (1887-1911), Furukawa Rikisaku (1884-1911) and Kotoku Shusui and his former common-law wife, feminist author Kanno Suga. Upon questioning, the police discovered what the prosecutor's office regarded as a nation-wide conspiracy against the Japanese monarchy.

In the subsequent investigation, many known leftists and suspected sympathizers were brought in for questioning around the country. Eventually, 25 men and one woman were brought to trial on the charge of violation of Article 73 of the Criminal Code (harming or intending harm to the Emperor or member of the imperial family). The case was tried in a closed court, and the prosecutor was Hiranuma Kiichiro.

Although evidence against the five principal defendants was conclusive, evidence against the remaining 21 defendants was circumstantial. Nonetheless, twenty-four of the twenty-six defendants were sentenced to death by hanging on 18 January 1911, and the remaining two defendants were sentenced to 8 years and 11 years respectively for violation of explosives ordinances.

Of the death sentences, an Imperial Rescript commuted twelve to life imprisonment on the following day. Of the remaining twelve, eleven were executed on 24 January 1911. These included Kotoku Shusui, a prominent Japanese anarchist, and Oishi Seinosuke, a doctor. The last of the condemned defendants, the only woman, Kanno Suga, was executed the next day.

The case was largely used as a pretext by authorities to round up dissidents. Only five or six of those accused and convicted in the trial actually had anything to do with the plot to kill the emperor. Even the foremost defendant, Kotoku Shusui, had not been involved in the plot planning since the very earliest stages, but his high prestige made him the principal figure to the prosecution.

The High Treason Incident is indirectly related to The Red Flag Incident of 1908. During the High Treason investigation, anarchists already incarcerated were questioned about possible involvement, including Osugi Sakae, Sakai Toshihiko, and Yamakawa Hitoshi. The fact that they were already in jail saved many from facing further charges. [Bowen Raddeker, Helen. "Treacherous Women of Imperial Japan", Routledge, 1997. P. 6] Kanno Suga, who was found not guilty during the Red Flag trials, was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death in the High Treason trials.

The High Treason Incident created a shift in the intellectual environment of the late Meiji period towards more control and heightened repression for ideologies deemed potentially subversive. It is often cited as one of the factors leading to the promulgation of the Peace Preservation Laws.

A plea for a retrial was submitted after the end of the Second World War but this was turned down by the Supreme Court in 1967. [cite web|url=http://members2.jcom.home.ne.jp/anarchism/koutoku-giken.html|title=幸徳事件|language=Japanese|accessdate=2008-07-11]



*cite book
title=The Life of Seinosuke: Dr. Oishi and the High Treason Incident
publisher=White Tiger Press

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