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Man Turns Himself in Over Anti-Nuke Drone Stunt in Japan

Indications are that contents inside drone came from area near Fukushima and controversial stunt was carried out to express opposition to nuclear restart

Yasuo Yamamoto leaves Kojimachi Police Station in Tokyo on Sunday after authorities handed him to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office. (Photo: KYODO)

In Japan this weekend, 40-year-old Yasuo Yamamoto was arrested by police after turning himself in and admitting he was the individual who flew a small drone, plastered with warning labels and carrying low-grade radioactive material, onto the roof of the office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week.

In statements posted to a blog and attributed to Yamamoto, the carefully planned stunt was carried out to express his opposition to the nuclear industry's push—supported by Abe and other lawmakers—to restart the nation's fleet of nuclear reactors, all of which were shut down following the Fukushima disaster in 2011. According to police, the small bottle attached to the drone did contain traces of radioactive cesium, but that the levels were too low to affect humans or the environment.

The Japan Times reports that "Yamamoto blogged that he had collected radiation-tainted soil in Fukushima Prefecture" and that he had surveilled other possible targets, including ones connected to the U.S. government, in addition to the prime minister's  office.

According to the Times:

On Sunday morning, the Metropolitan Police Department’s Public Security Bureau searched [his] in Obama, Fukui Prefecture, and confiscated items detailing the drone and whether he attempted to fly one into other sensitive facilities.

Yamamoto was arrested Saturday on charges of obstructing the business of the prime minister’s office by flying the drone, found Wednesday, onto its roof. Yamamoto was turned over to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Sunday.

In a blog posting, Yamamoto wrote that he surveilled areas around the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Chiyoda Ward in October to determine where security cameras were placed on the sidewalks and to scout locations for launching the unmanned aircraft.

In November, he wrote that the United States may be “an enemy, too” and that “it is not known if the United States is pressuring Japan to restart nuclear power plants.”

And the Associated Press adds:

Tokyo metropolitan police said Yasuo Yamamoto, 40, turned himself in to authorities late Friday in Fukui in western Japan.

The small drone found Wednesday had traces of radiation and triggered fears of potential terrorist attacks using unmanned aerial devices, the prime ministers’ office has said. The infiltration at Japan’s political headquarters has also raised questions over the level of security there.

No one was injured and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was traveling at the time of the incident.

Police said Yamamoto was arrested on suspicion of flying the drone and obstructing duties at the prime minister’s office. He has not been indicted and faces further questioning.

Though Yamamoto was being referred to as a "lone wolf" in the Japanese press and government officials are characterizing his provocative stunt as an "act of terrorism," the anti-nuclear movement in Japan has been consistently non-violent in its opposition to restarting the country's nuclear infrastructure.

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