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Father of victim of 9/11 terrorist attacks raises questions about 'anti-conspiracy' bill

People are seen protesting the so-called "anti-conspiracy bill" in the cold rain in front of the prime minister's office in Tokyo on the morning of March 21, 2017. (Mainichi)
Kazusada Sumiyama

Kazusada Sumiyama, the father of a Japanese man who was killed in the 9/11 attacks on the United States, raised questions about the credibility and effectiveness of a controversial "anti-conspiracy" bill the government submitted to the House of Representatives on March 21.

The bill newly establishes a charge of preparing for acts of terrorism and other offenses to which "conspiracy charges" would apply. The government stresses that the bill is necessary to thwart terrorism ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo and to ratify the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. But the opposition camp has been fiercely responding against the government's move, and concerns over the legislation have also been raised by some civic groups and other parties.

"I heard that the bill is for joining the treaty to crack down on the mafia, but will it be a measure against terrorism?" said 79-year-old Sumiyama, whose son, Yoichi, died on Sept. 11, 2001 at the age of 34. "I wonder if the government is capitalizing on the treaty (in order to enact the bill)," he said.

Sumiyama feels uncomfortable about the fact that the government compiled the bill to revise the Act on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds by labeling it as a bill against "preparing for acts of terrorism and other offenses" and obtained Cabinet approval for the highly contentious legislation.

Sumiyama said he started doubting the effectiveness of the legislation in preventing terrorism while going through news reports. The government narrowed down the number of crimes punishable under the bill down to 277 from the originally suggested 676, but only about 110 of them are for terrorist acts. Sumiyama said, "Setting aside murder and kidnapping, even thefts are included in the crimes punishable under the legislation. They say they will catch suspects at the planning phase, but unless there is whistleblowing, I wonder how they will investigate."

Sumiyama has visited the remains almost every year of the World Trade Center that used to house the bank for which his son Yoichi was working. He bought the book "The 9/11 Report: The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States" on his way back home after attending a memorial ceremony in New York in 2004. The report verifies and sums up the investigation into the tragedy. After reading the report with the help of dictionaries, he started translating the entire report around 2008. He has almost finished translating the data into Japanese and is now looking for ways to publish his translated version of the report.

Meanwhile, Sumiyama raises questions over whether the 1995 sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway system and the 1974 bombings of the headquarters of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. in Tokyo have been properly verified and whether the lessons learned from the incidents have been put to good use. He does not think the answer comes in the form of the anti-conspiracy bill.

"If they can abort terrorism, I think it is unavoidable to clamp restraints on individuals' freedom to a certain extent by expanding the scope of investigations, but a society in which we cannot talk with our families and friends at ease is scary. They must think about something that can secure understanding from the public," Sumiyama said. It will be 16 years this year since he lost his son. "Separately from the bill, I hope there will be substantive counterterrorism measures," he said.

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