Frenchman in Tokyo ends hunger strike over his 'abducted' children

Vincent Fichot stopped his hunger strike in order to regain strength ahead of an operation under general anaesthesia. - AFP

TOKYO (AFP): A Frenchman who went on hunger strike in Tokyo seeking access to his children said Friday he had ended his protest to undergo surgery on his finger after a fall.

For three weeks, Vincent Fichot sat outside a train station near the Olympic Stadium in a bid to be reunited with his two children, who he says were abducted by their Japanese mother in 2018.

The 39-year-old former finance worker told AFP he had stopped his hunger strike in order to regain strength ahead of an operation under general anaesthetic.

He said he had fractured his finger in a fall on Wednesday, having lost around 14 kilograms (31 pounds) since he started his protest on July 10 weighing 80 kilograms.

"Thank you everyone for your support. The fight continues," Fichot tweeted.

Joint custody of children in cases of divorce or separation does not exist legally in Japan, where parental abductions are common and often tolerated by local authorities.

Fichot, who has lived in Japan for 15 years, says his wife accused him in court of domestic violence but later retracted the claim.

The wife's lawyer refused to comment to AFP earlier this month, only denouncing "biased" media reports.

No official numbers exist, but rights groups have estimated that about 150,000 minors are forcibly separated from a parent every year in Japan.

French President Emmanuel Macron raised the issue with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week on a visit to the country to attend the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.

But Fichot, who has not seen his six-year-old son and four-year-old daughter since August 2018, said Macron's appeal had "changed nothing" about his situation.

Before he called off his protest on Friday, Fichot was visited by a group of 10 ambassadors from EU countries, who expressed support for his cause.

Macron's advisors, but not the president himself, met Fichot during their short trip to Japan.

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