3 foreign-born Japan residents sue over alleged police racial profiling

Three foreign-born residents of Japan have filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the state and local governments over alleged racial profiling by police.

The men, who live in Tokyo and Aichi Prefecture, met reporters in the capital accompanied by their lawyer on Monday.

Their complaint says the plaintiffs have been repeatedly stopped by police officers for no apparent reason.

The plaintiffs say officers have searched their personal belongings and given odd excuses for stopping them such as that it's rare to see foreign nationals driving.

The three are each seeking 3 million yen in damages, or about 20,000 dollars, from the central, Tokyo Metropolitan and Aichi prefectural governments. They say such police questioning is an act of discrimination and violates the Constitution.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have told a reporter about instructions believed to have been produced by Aichi prefectural police.

According to the lawyers, they say "officers must carry out thorough investigation in line with the belief that individuals with a foreign appearance that do not speak Japanese must be engaged in some form of illegal action."

Racial profiling is a problem worldwide. A United Nations committee has recommended that guidelines be set to prevent the use of race, skin color, national origin and other factors to target people for police questioning or investigation.

Plaintiff Seiedo Zain, 26, whose parents are from Pakistan, holds Japanese citizenship. He told reporters that he cooperated with police because he felt it was the safe thing to do. He said he began wondering why he was getting stopped after being subject to questioning more than 10 times.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Uraki Tomoko, told reporters she wants to provide society with an opportunity to think about such actions by police, which may be linked to racial profiling.

A National Police Agency official in charge of the matter declined to comment, saying police have yet to receive the complaint.