March 26, 2017
Tokyo- Four opposition parties demanded Sunday sworn testimony in parliament by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, on a questionable discount sale of state land to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen.
But Hakubun Shimomura, executive acting secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, rejected the demand.
“Sworn testimony is intended for people who may face criminal responsibility, with the possibility of perjury charges,” Shimomura said on a television program. “Akie has not committed any crime.”
The opposition parties see problems with the revelation by Yasunori Kagoike, outgoing chief of the school operator, in sworn testimony last week that a government worker serving Abe’s wife acted on a request from Kagoike and made an inquiry with the Finance Ministry about a lease contract of the land in question.
Moritomo Gakuen acquired the land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, western Japan, last year at a discount of more than 80 pct from the appraised value to construct an elementary school. The ministry manages state-owned land and other assets.
“The government personnel performed her job as official duty, and we cannot help but suspect (Akie’s) involvement,” Testuro Fukuyama of the main opposition Democratic Party said on the program. “The process needs to be explained clearly.”
Mizuho Fukushima, chief of the Social Democratic Party, also called for testimony by the first lady. “It was an exercise of authority that took advantage of her position as the wife of the prime minister. Sworn testimony in parliament is indispensable,” Fukushima said.
The LDP’s Shimomura was also cautious about summoning Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui to the national legislature to testify under oath on the prefectural government’s approval of Moritomo Gakuen’s application for opening the elementary school at the site.
Later on a separate TV program, Shimomura said the House of Representatives, the all-important lower chamber of parliament, is unlikely to be dissolved for a snap election over the shady land deal. “It’s not an issue serious enough to require a dissolution (of the Lower House) to seek public judgment,” he said. Jiji Press
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