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Months on, Japan ministry 'still making' docs over shelved prosecutor retirement bill

In this May 22, 2020 file photo, Justice Minister Masako Mori is seen speaking at a House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee meeting. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Japan's Justice Ministry says it is still in the process of creating documents elaborating on the developments leading up to a controversial bill to revise the Public Prosecutor's Office Act -- two and a half months after the Cabinet approved the bill.

The bill was shelved by the government and ruling coalition following a harsh opposition bloc and public backlash. Justice Minister Masako Mori promised the Diet in February that related records would be made, but it is now unclear whether they will be available by the end of the current Diet session scheduled to finish on June 17. The Justice Ministry has already failed to create the minutes of internal meetings over reinterpretation of the law to allow the retirement age of Hiromu Kurokawa, former chief of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, to be raised, highlighting its negligence in keeping records.

Under Article 4 of the Public Records and Archives Management Act, administrative bodies are required to create records to allow "logical inspection of the decision-making process," but the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has come under fire time and time again for falsifying and discarding public records related to scandals involving school operators thought to be close to him or his wife, as well as those connected with controversial cherry blossom-viewing parties he hosted.

Regarding documents related to the process of drawing up the bill, Mori told a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 27, "At the stage when the bill is finalized, related records will be managed to clarify the process, and necessary documents will also be created and managed." In her statement, she indicated that discussion between Vice-Minister of Justice Hiroyuki Tsuji and herself over the draft revision and the government's reinterpretation of the law, as well as dialogue between the Justice Ministry and Cabinet Legislation Bureau would be recorded in writing.

A package of proposed legislative measures including the bill to revise the Public Prosecutor's Office Act to extend prosecutors' retirement age, were considered to have been "finalized" when the Abe Cabinet approved them on March 13. They were then sent to a House of Representatives plenary session for deliberation on April 16.

The Justice Ministry, however, told the Mainichi Shimbun on April 22 that related documents were "currently being written up." The ministry again told the Mainichi on May 29 that they were still being drawn up, saying that they "started on work to create related documents after the bill was approved in March."

The Abe government has been grilled in the current Diet session by the opposition camp over the controversial bill and the resignation of Kurokawa for playing mahjong for money with reporters. The proposed legislation's related documents, if presented, are likely to spark further clashes. The Justice Ministry told the Mainichi that there is "nothing to comment at the moment" as to when the documents would be completed. It is possible that the recording work will be pushed back until after the Diet session ends.

(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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