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Gov't mulling submitting 'conspiracy bill' in upcoming Diet session

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of senior members of the ruling coalition Thursday that the government plans to submit to the Diet a bill aimed at punishing those who abet terrorism, an initiative that has previously drawn criticism as a potential vehicle for human rights violations.

    Several bills proposing the addition of a conspiracy charge to the existing law on organized crime have floundered in the past, amid concerns the change could encourage more invasive state surveillance and allow investigators to arbitrarily punish people who have not committed any crime.

    Abe said the government plans to submit the bill in the next ordinary Diet session to be convened Jan. 20, according to an attendee at Thursday's meeting between senior government officials and members of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

    The bill would aim to enhance Japan's ability to ward off terrorism connected to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

    Under current Japanese law, people can be charged for inducing another person to commit a crime, or inducing someone to induce a third party to commit a crime.

    The conspiracy charge proposed in the previously scrapped bills would punish those connected with the planning of serious crimes, even if they are not directly involved in the crimes' commission.

    The Justice Ministry has held that such a change would better protect the public from serious crimes, while legal advocacy groups have said a change is unnecessary and could be used to crack down on civic groups.

    The government may try a new approach in the wording of the bill to address such concerns.

    "With (the Olympics and Paralympics) now just three years away, we must take every measure to prevent organized crime, including terrorism, in advance," Suga said at a press conference.

    "We're making final arrangements reflecting the opinions that have previously come up in the Diet," the top government spokesman said.

    The government views the introduction of such legislation as a prerequisite for Japan to ratify the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted in 2000.

    Suga pointed out that Japan is among a small minority of U.N. members -- and the only member of the Group of Seven industrialized countries -- yet to have done so.

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