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Mitsubishi Electric worker accused of telling subordinate 'to die' may face prosecution

Hyogo Prefectural Police headquarters are seen in Kobe's Chuo Ward in this February 2019 file photo. (Mainichi/Jun Yoneyama)

KOBE -- Police sent papers on a Mitsubishi Electric Corp. worker to the Kobe District Public Prosecutors Office in western Japan for allegedly telling his subordinate to go die before the junior worker took his own life, sources close to the investigation told the Mainichi Shimbun.

A note, reportedly found at the scene where the new employee in his 20s killed himself in August, said he was "told to die" by his superior in his 30s, who was at the time in charge of training him, among other descriptions.

In a rare move of applying the Japanese Penal Code to punish inducing suicide to a case of workplace power harassment, Sanda Police Station sent the papers to the prosecutors on Nov. 14. The Kobe District Public Prosecutors Office is expected to make a careful judgment about whether to file charges against the superior.

According to sources including those close to the investigation, the fresh employee was assigned to the company's manufacturing engineering center in the city of Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, western Japan. In late August, he took his own life in a park near the company's dormitory in the prefectural city of Sanda.

After finding the note, the Hyogo Prefectural Police began questioning workers at Mitsubishi Electric in September including the man's superior and co-workers, and are carefully investigating if the superior actually told him to die, and if so, whether or not there is a causal relationship between the remark and the suicide.

Though a spokesperson with Mitsubishi Electric acknowledged that police sent papers to prosecutors on the worker in his 30s, they said, "We cannot answer questions on the case as it is being investigated." They also commented, "We offer our sincerest prayers for the deceased employee and send our heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family."

Five male engineers -- in their 20s to 40s -- in charge of development work at Mitsubishi Electric were previously certified by labor inspection authorities to have work-related health problems such as mental illness and a brain disease between fiscal 2014 and 2017. Two of them took their own lives.

Furthermore, a new worker, who was 25 years old at the time, assigned to the company's software development department in Amagasaki also killed himself in 2016. His bereaved family filed a damage suit with the Tokyo District Court in 2017, insisting that the cause of the suicide was due to power harassment and bullying by his superiors and co-workers.

(Japanese original by Kwanghoon Han, Kobe Bureau; Kotaro Adachi, Tama Bureau; Akihiro Omori, Osaka Regional News Center)

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