Japan threatens to punish leakers following Shinzo Abe probe

By Elizabeth Shim  |  June 14, 2017 at 2:14 PM
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June 14 (UPI) -- The administration of Shinzo Abe is threatening to punish the government staffer who disclosed evidence showing the Japanese prime minister's office pressuring officials to give preferred treatment to a friend.

The warning from Tokyo comes at a time when freedom of expression is on the decline and public debate is being discouraged in the country, according to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression.

Abe has been under investigation since documents leaked to local media show his advisers pushing Tokyo's education ministry to subsidize a university program run by Kotaro Kake, a longtime friend.

The prime minister and his Cabinet have not only questioned the veracity of the documents, but according to the Tokyo Shimbun and other newspapers, the administration is open to charging the government leaker with violating the law.

Japan's education minister is planning a probe into the documents, and according to the Mainichi Shimbun on Wednesday, the main opposition Democratic Party had filed a censure motion against a regional revitalization minister who oversees the special deregulation zone where Kake's Okayama University of Science was to open its new veterinary medicine department.

For reasons that have yet to be investigated, Kake had acquired the city-owned property at zero cost in Imabari in western Japan.

The leaked document also stated it was Abe's "intent" to push forward with the university program. The opening of the department was "what the highest level of the prime minister's office has said," the documents stated.

Japan's opposition party lawmakers also allege the special zone allowed the veterinary school to open and provided the permission on Nov. 8, 2016.

Other documents leaked on Tuesday show Kake's school paid for first lady Akie Abe's transportation expenses when she was visiting a childcare facility operated by Kake's institution.

The first lady was also recently linked to illicit donations to a right-wing school with racist views, Moritomo Gakuen, in March.

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