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Former Japan justice minister released on bail in vote-buying case

Former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai is seen speaking to reporters in Tokyo's Minato Ward, on Jan. 15, 2020. (Mainichi/Kota Yoshida)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Former Japanese Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, who is being tried on vote-buying charges related to his wife's 2019 upper house election campaign, was released on bail Wednesday following more than eight months in detention.

    Kawai left the Tokyo Detention House after a prosecutors' appeal against a lower court decision made earlier in the day to grant him bail was rejected.

    The 57-year-old House of Representatives member paid bail of 50 million yen ($470,000) as requested by the Tokyo District Court.

    Kawai is accused of handing out a total of about 29 million yen to 100 individuals, including local politicians and supporters in his home prefecture of Hiroshima, to reward them for votes secured in the campaign to make sure his wife Anri Kawai would be elected.

    His defense team made the fifth request for his release on Feb. 24 as the district court finished questionings or examining statements of those people and there are no fears of destroying evidence.

    Anri Kawai was elected in the House of Councillors election in July 2019 but the couple quit the Liberal Democratic Party, then headed by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, just before they were arrested in June last year.

    The Kawais initially stood trial together and both pleaded not guilty, but their cases were separated in September after the former justice minister dismissed his defense team, which led his court proceedings to be suspended.

    Anri Kawai, 47, was found guilty in January for conspiring with her husband in handing out cash to four prefectural assembly members and resigned as a lawmaker the following month.

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