Japan justice minister claims Al-Qaeda connection; “It is not only about terrorism. If someone is involved in a crime in Japan, they will be deported and their fingerprints will be on a database, so we can stop them the next time they try to re-enter”
(The Straits Times) TOKYO – JAPAN’S justice minister said on Monday that a friend of a friend was a member of Al-Qaeda and had entered the country on various fake passports – justifying a new system for fingerprinting foreigners on entry to the country.
Mr Kunio Hatoyama said the man had been involved in a bomb attack on Bali and that he personally had received a warning to stay away from the island for safety reasons.
It was not clear which bombing he was referring to. An attack in 2002 killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists, while another series of bombings in 2005 killed 20 people.
‘My friend’s friend is a member of Al-Qaeda,’ Mr Hatoyama told a news conference on Monday.
‘I have never met him, but I heard that two or three years ago he came to Japan several times,’ he added.
Need for fingerprint system
Mr Hatoyama said the man had entered the country on various passports, an example that he said showed the need for a new system for fingerprinting foreigners at immigration set to start on Nov 20.
‘Each time he used different passports and was able to disguise himself with different beards so that he could not be recognised among all the foreigners,’ Mr Hatoyama said of the Al- Qaeda member.
Almost all non-Japanese will be required to give fingerprint scans and have digital photographs taken on arrival at Japan’s international airports and ports from next month – a plan that has sparked anger among the country’s more than two million foreign residents.
Japan defines a terrorist as a person likely to commit, prepare for or facilitate ‘a criminal act for the purpose of intimidation of the general public and of government’, according to the justice ministry website.
The Japanese government plans to check visitors’ fingerprints against international databases to seek out potential terrorists, Mr Hatoyama said.
The new immigration checks are based on the ‘US Visit’ system introduced in the United States after the Sept 11 attacks.
But Hatoyama added that crime prevention was also a major aim of the new policy.
‘It is not only about terrorism. If someone is involved in a crime in Japan, they will be deported and their fingerprints will be on a database, so we can stop them the next time they try to re-enter,’ he said.
Mr Hatoyama expressed opposition to the pro-immigration stance of his predecessor, Jinen Nagase, who called for more foreign workers to make up the shortfall as Japan’s population ages and shrinks. — REUTERS
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