16 June 2017

News Story: 'Conspiracy' law enacted to punish planning of crimes

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's parliament enacted Thursday contentious legislation to criminalize the planning of serious crimes, which the government says will help thwart terrorism but opponents claim could lead to the suppression of civil liberties and excessive state surveillance.

The amendment to the law on organized crime cleared a vote in a plenary session of the House of Councillors, or upper house, after the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito took the unorthodox step on Wednesday of bypassing an upper house committee vote.

The choice to circumvent the normal legislative process effectively allowed the coalition to avoid having to extend the current Diet session, set to end on Sunday, at a time when corruption allegations against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have prompted heightened scrutiny of the Abe administration.

Opposition parties have said documents shared in the education ministry imply that Abe had a hand in a decision to approve a university project in a specially deregulated economic zone so as to benefit one of his close friends.

"Is it that you don't want (the allegations) to be covered any more than this? Is that why you've embarked on the ultimate form of railroading (by bypassing the committee)?" Democratic Party leader Renho said while speaking against the amendment.

"We want to use this law appropriately and effectively to protect the public's lives and property," Abe told reporters at his office on Thursday morning.

Under the new law, members of "terrorist groups or other organized crime groups" can be punished for carrying out specific actions in preparation for 277 different crimes.

The Abe administration framed the law as an essential tool for thwarting terrorist attacks, of particular importance as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, and as necessary to allow Japan to ratify the 2000 U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Read the full story at The Mainichi