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Justice minister retracts statement seen to suppress Diet discussion

  • February 7, 2017
  • , Kyodo News
  • English Press

Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda on Tuesday retracted a statement criticized as intended to suppress parliamentary discussions about a controversial bill being prepared by the Japanese government to criminalize conspiracy to commit terrorism.

 

The statement, which was prepared at his instruction and distributed to the press the previous day, said discussions about the bill should be held at a judicial affairs committee after it is submitted to parliament. Opposition lawmakers have already been asking government officials about the envisioned bill during parliamentary sessions.

 

After the opposition criticized the statement, Kaneda retracted it and apologized, saying it was inappropriate. “In no way did I mean to demand through the media which subject parliament should debate,” he said at a news conference.

 

Although the main opposition Democratic Party is threatening to demand his resignation, Kaneda suggested that he intends to stay on in the Cabinet post. “I want to sincerely perform my duty as justice minister while accepting the criticism,” he said.

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a parliamentary session, “The justice minister retracted (the statement) and apologized. We are all required to try to engage in constructive discussions in Diet deliberations.”

 

The government is aiming to have the bill passed during the ongoing parliamentary session, but the latest quarrel could thwart the attempt.

 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference the same day that he gave a call to Kaneda and asked him to deal with the matter sincerely.

“I think he will continue to fulfill his duties in a sincere manner,” Suga added.

 

Abe’s administration is framing the bill as a key part of Japan’s effort to keep the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics safe from terrorism. But opposition forces have looked warily at the move amid concern about its infringement on human rights.

 

Similar initiatives to introduce what has been described as a conspiracy charge have fallen flat in the past amid concerns such a provision could be used to crack down on civic groups and arbitrarily punish people who have not committed any crime.

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