Opposition steps up battle in Diet against ‘conspiracy bill’

The main opposition Democratic Party submitted Tuesday a censure motion against a upper house committee chairman for his “heavy-handed” stance to put through a controversial bill to punish the planning of serious crimes.

The ruling camp plans to vote down the motion Wednesday against Kozo Akino, the chairman of the House of Councillors Judicial Affairs Committee. Deliberations for the “conspiracy bill” at the committee were shelved for Tuesday.

Given the tight deliberation schedule for the contentious bill, an idea has been floated within the ruling parties to extend the parliament session for a short period beyond June 18 when the current session is slated to end, the parties’ lawmakers said.

In submitting the censure motion, the Democratic Party criticized Akino, saying it “cannot overlook his forcible management of the committee by ignoring the voices of opposition parties and people.”

The chairman is “seeking to ram through a bill that could threaten freedom of thought without sufficient debate,” it said.

The move followed Akino’s executive decision to invite an assistant to Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda to the committee meeting. Kaneda has drawn criticism for his insufficient explanation over the bill during lower house deliberations.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meanwhile, reiterated readiness to seek the passage of the bill during the current Diet session, saying the government “will make efforts to offer a thorough explanation.”

Abe’s government says Japan needs the bill to revise the law on organized crime to protect the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics from possible attacks. It also says the bill is a prerequisite to ratify the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which Tokyo signed in 2000.

But opposition parties claim it could boost police power and eventually infringe on personal privacy and other rights. Three similar bills have failed to pass the Diet due to such concerns.

Opponents, including legal experts, argue that the planned legislation could violate the Constitution as it could penalize people whom authorities regard as plotting offenses.

In addition to the conspiracy bill, the government and the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito party are also aiming, during the current Diet session, to enact a bill to adopt tighter punishments on sex crimes.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party Diet affairs chief Kazunori Yamanoi said the party is considering submitting a motion of no-confidence in the Abe Cabinet over allegations involving Kake Educational Institution, which is run by a close friend of the prime minister.

Documents have been found that could indicate Abe used his influence to allow the school operator to open a veterinary medicine department in a government-designated deregulation zone.

“The prime minister is refusing to allow the truth to come out. The crime of the government’s cover-up and politics to give preferential treatment to his friends has deepened further,” Yamanoi said.



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