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TOKYO – An Australian journalist in Japan says he is the victim of Japanese guardianship legislation that gives only one parent access to children from broken marriages, the day after he was convicted of entering the apartment building of his estranged wife’s parents to try find his children.

Scott McIntyre was arrested in November, a month after he entered the apartment building. He says he tried to make sure his two children, eight and eleven years old, were safe after a typhoon hit the country. He was held for 44 days until last week, when he was released on bail.

The Tokyo court sentenced Wednesday McIntyre, a former sports journalist for the SBS network of Australia, to six months in prison. The sentence was suspended for three years, which means that he will not have to serve time if his behavior is good during that period.

He told reporters on Thursday that his children had been “abducted” by his wife without any explanation. He did not discuss why his wife and the children disappeared. During the trial, prosecutors said he used violence against his daughter, which he denied.

“I don’t know if my children are alive, I don’t know if they are dead,” he said.

In a country where women are still expected to be responsible for the upbringing of children, custody rights usually go to mothers. Fathers who are divorced or separated have difficulty accessing their children.

Japanese guardianship laws “encourage child abduction,” McIntyre said. He said his wife sought divorce, but he resisted because he didn’t want to lose access to his children.

“And this is all because Japan refuses … to introduce a system of joint custody. It is a fundamental and fundamental human right, “he said.” We are just asking to protect the rights of children, just like in most other civilized countries. “

The McIntyre case sheds light on the Japanese legal system, which has already drawn international criticism of the months of detention of former Nissan president Carlos Ghosn in what critics have called “hostage justice.” Ghosn, who was accused of not fully reporting his income and recently escaped from house arrest and fled to Lebanon, has bitterly criticized his treatment by Japanese prosecutors.

In recent years, a growing number of foreign fathers have sought the right to see children who have been taken by their Japanese mothers into broken international marriages. But McIntyre said that foreigners are only a small part of the custody problem in Japan, and that Japanese citizens, who are the biggest victims, must ultimately seek changes to the current system.

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AP journalist Haruka Nuga has contributed to this report.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press