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Former Japanese ambassador warned for sexually harassing female subordinate

Kinichi Komano, left, then chairman of the Japan-Iran Association, is pictured with others including former Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Masahiko Komura, center, at the inauguration ceremony of the association in September 2017. (Photo taken from the website of the Iranian Embassy in Japan)

TOKYO -- A former Japanese ambassador to Iran was warned by the Foreign Ministry for sexually harassing a female subordinate in 2012, an internal document obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun shows.

    The then ambassador, 72-year-old Kinichi Komano, admitted to the allegations during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.

    Following the incident, the victim temporarily took sick leave after being diagnosed with acute stress reaction. The woman filed a criminal complaint with the Metropolitan Police Department last month, accusing Komano of indecent assault, according to her legal representative, lawyer Yoshihiko Hiraiwa.

    The ministry's Personnel Division declined to comment on the incident. "We'd like to refrain from commenting on the matter to protect the privacy of those involved," an official said.

    The two-page internal document obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun was compiled by the ministry's Personnel Division on Aug. 22, 2018.

    According to the document, Komano kissed the woman at his official residence in Tehran on Oct. 14, 2012, the day before he left the position of ambassador to Iran.

    In February 2013, the deputy vice minister of the Foreign Ministry called Komano and ordered him not to contact the victim again. "The victim has been mentally shocked. You continue to send emails to her, but she says she doesn't want you to contact her in any way. I'd like you not to contact her anymore," the document quotes the deputy vice minister as telling Komano.

    The Foreign Ministry confirmed the incident only after Komano retired in November 2012. The document states that the ministry deemed that it could warn the man but not take any disciplinary measures against him.

    Prior to the sexual harassment incident, Komano spent about two hours dining with the woman on the first floor of his official residence. He then invited her to his private room on the second floor of his official residence to drink coffee.

    In an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, Komano explained that he told her, "I'd like to hug you to bid farewell," and kissed her cheek. He then attempted to kiss her lips but stopped after she resisted. "I didn't go any further. What I did doesn't constitute indecent assault," he stated. The man said he "felt affection toward her," and it is "heartbreaking" to hear that she fell ill after his actions.

    However, the woman claims in her complaint that Komano fondled her breasts, put his hand up her skirt and rubbed her thigh.

    In an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, the victim said, "He was in a high-ranking position, so I was unable to refuse to dine with him or be hugged by him. Since Mr. Komano had close ties with dignitaries in Iran, I was unable to disclose the case for fear that it could adversely affect bilateral relations," the woman said. "But I chose to take action because it was painful to continue to perform my duty without doing anything."

    Komano joined the Foreign Ministry in 1970 and took up the position of ambassador to Iran in September 2010 after serving as ambassador to Afghanistan, minister-counselor in the United States and ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti.

    Komano has resigned as chairman of the Japan-Iran Association over the matter, a post he assumed after retiring from the Foreign Ministry. He was summoned by the ministry in February this year and the deputy vice minister urged him to step down as chairman of the association.

    "The woman feels pain whenever she sees you involved in activities without being punished. We ask you not to be involved in any diplomatic activities with Iran. The most important thing is for you to step down as chairman. You should consider how to take responsibility," another internal document quotes the deputy vice minister as telling Komano. The Mainichi Shimbun has also obtained this document.

    (Japanese original by Ryuji Tanaka, Special Reports Group)

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