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Japan justice minister survives no-confidence motion over top prosecutor

Japanese Justice Minister Masako Mori attends a House of Representatives Budget Committee session in Tokyo on Feb. 27, 2020. The opposition camp submitted a no-confidence motion against her the same day over personnel affairs at the Tokyo High Prosecutors Office. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Justice Minister Masako Mori survived a no-confidence motion Thursday submitted by the opposition over a government decision to keep a top public prosecutor in office longer than planned.

Four opposition parties took issue with what they saw as an arbitrary reinterpretation of the law that ignored the government's conventional stance to enable a six-month extension to the retirement of Hiromu Kurokawa, superintending prosecutor at the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office.

The motion, lodged by the opposition camp including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People, was voted down by the ruling coalition-controlled House of Representatives.

Opposition lawmakers allege the government had to change its legal interpretation retroactively as Mori, who is responsible for judicial affairs, had to maintain consistency with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's remarks over the personnel decision. Kurokawa is believed to be favored by the prime minister's office.

Faced with criticism from the opposition that had grilled Abe over a separate scandal, Abe abruptly told parliament earlier in the month that the government interpretation had been altered. Mori then revealed that the change was made just before the Cabinet endorsed Kurokawa's retirement extension on Jan. 31.

The retirement age for prosecutors is set at 63. The government's past stance was that prosecutors were not subject to the law on public servants, which allows for delaying retirement by up to one year.

The opposition camp, meanwhile, has stepped up criticism of the government over its handling of the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship near Tokyo and its response to the new coronavirus outbreak.

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