Updated: 07/19/2014 02:26 | By Agence France-Presse

Tokyo vagina artist released by police

A Tokyo artist known for her genital-inspired works has been released from police custody following her arrest on obscenity charges, her lawyer said Friday, in a case that sparked accusations of a clampdown on freedom of expression.


Tokyo vagina artist released by police

A picture taken by Rokude Nashiko and Marie Akatani on October 19, 2013 shows artist Megumi Igarashi paddling a kayak that was designed to be the shape of her own vagina in Tokyo

Megumi Igarashi, 42, who calls herself Rokude Nashiko which roughly translates as "bastard kid", was taken into custody on Saturday for distributing data that allowed recipients to make 3D prints of her vagina.

She was released after her legal team filed an appeal against the detention with a Tokyo court. The court then upheld the appeal, in what the lawyers said was a very rare move as it ruled against the prosecution.

Igarashi, who appeared at a press conference after a week of detention, said she was resolute to exhaust the legal path up to the top court if prosecutors indict her.

"I had no idea why I had to be arrested and detained because I don't believe my vagina is anything obscene," she said. "I was determined I would never yield to police power."

Takashi Yamaguchi, one of the lawyers, said police might have arrested her in a warning against an easy use of a 3D printer or against often sexually vibrant magazines in the country.

"We don't consider her artworks are anything obscene," he said. "We refute how sexually arousing it could be, when you describe the female genitals apart from a human body."

It was not immediately clear if the artist would face criminal charges.

Igarashi had been trying to raise funds online to pay for the construction of a kayak, using a 3D printer, modelled on the shape of her genitals.

The artist's supporters said they were shocked by what they described as the police's unusually broad use of Japan's obscenity laws.

Japan has a notoriously vibrant pornography industry that caters to a vast array of tastes. But obscenity laws still forbid the depiction of actual genitalia, which usually appear censored or pixellated in images and videos.

The artist was arrested for "distributing data that could create an obscene shape through a 3D printer," a police spokesman told AFP earlier.

Before her arrest, Igarashi had collected about one million yen ($9,800) through an Internet crowd funding site. 

In exchange for donations, she supplied data to supporters that would let them create 3D prints of her genitals.

The artist's arrest sparked protest among her fans and supporters, who started an online petition to demand her immediate release, as they criticised police for what they said was an attack on free expression.

If convicted, Igarashi could receive up to two years in jail or a fine of as much as 2.5 million yen, according to her lawyer.

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