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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 February 5 - 10  > Abe Cabinet decision supposedly seeks to exert political influence over prosecution officers
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2020 February 5 - 10 [POLITICS]

Abe Cabinet decision supposedly seeks to exert political influence over prosecution officers

February 5, 2020

Ignoring the law, the Abe Cabinet at the end of January decided to extend the tenure of the head of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, Kurokawa Hiromu, who is believed to be close to Prime Minister Abe, by six months after he reaches retirement age. Doubts have arisen that the decision was made for the purpose of exerting political influence over prosecution officers.

The Public Prosecutor's Office Act stipulates that prosecutors must retire at the age of 63, except for the prosecutor-general who must retire at the age of 65. Superintending prosecutor Kurokawa will reach the mandatory retirement age of 63 on February 7.

One veteran journalist from the press club in the prosecutors’ office criticized the Cabinet decision as being unprecedented. Referring to the fact that the Cabinet has the authority to appoint the prosecutor-general, the deputy prosecutor-general, and the superintending prosecutors, the journalist said, “Despite this, consecutive Cabinets have made appointments based on the recommendation from the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office because prosecutors’ independence and impartiality should be highly valued.”

Regarding reasons for the Abe Cabinet decision, the veteran reporter indicated his view that Kurokawa, as a Justice Ministry bureaucrat in charge of the procedure for drafting laws, has extensive experience working with the Cabinet Office and has been regarded as “helpful” to the Abe government. He also pointed out that the Cabinet decision to extend Kurokawa’s tenure enables him to take over as the head of Japan’s prosecution authority in August after the retirement of the present incumbent.

Prosecutor-turned lawyer Ochiai Yoji in his tweet on Twitter cited a series of money-for-politics scandals involving Cabinet members of the Prime Minister Abe-led government and wrote, “The scandal-tainted Cabinet wanted to select a manageable person as successor to the current prosecutor-general.”

Many Abe Cabinet members one after another have become the subject or target of criminal investigations and prosecution regarding their involvement in money-for-politics scandals. Former Economy Revitalization Minister Amari Akira in 2016 resigned after being suspected of receiving bribes from a construction company. Former Education Minister Shimomura Hakubun in 2015 faced a criminal charge for his alleged violation of the political funds control law. The most recent cases include two ministers’ resignations due to alleged election law violations and the arrest of the former vice minister on a charge of casino-related bribery.

A former bureaucrat of the Cabinet Office said, “The latest Cabinet decision appears to be a measure to prevent Cabinet members from being subject to criminal penalties.”

Past related article:
> Justice minister resigns over his wife's possible violation of election law [ November 1, 2019]
> Economy minister’s resignation will not put end to his bribery allegations: Yamashita [January 29, 2016]
> Civic ombudsman group accuses Education Minister of violating Political Funds Control Law [March 25, 2015]
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