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Japanese lawmaker receives suspended prison sentence for vote-buying

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Anri Kawai, a member of Japan’s upper house of parliament, was sentenced on Thursday to a year and four months in prison, suspended for five years, for vote-buying in the 2019 upper house election in violation of the Public Offices Election Law.

Kawai, 47, was found guilty by the Tokyo District Court of giving money to local lawmakers in the western prefecture of Hiroshima in return for their support in her election campaign.

If the ruling is finalized, Kawai, criminal charges aside, will lose her status as a lawmaker.

“It harmed the fairness of elections, which are the basis of democracy,” Presiding Judge Yasuaki Takahashi said in handing down the ruling, with reference to the impact on Japanese society of Kawai’s misdeeds.

Kawai, for her part, has denied all the charges against her.

Her husband, Katsuyuki Kawai, a former justice minister, has been tried separately on vote-buying charges.

The court has determined the couple were in cahoots in the vote-buying scandal.

Katsuyuki Kawai, 57, a lower house member, is accused of handing around 29 million yen (280,500 United States dollars) to 100 individuals in total.

Anri Kawai conspired with her husband to violate the election law by handing out 1.7 million yen in total to five local assembly members between March and June in 2019, according to the charges.

The court ruled Thursday she was guilty of bribing four of them.

“It was obvious the couple were conspiring,” prosecutors said.

In the election, Anri Kawai, a former prefectural assembly member, won one of the two seats in the Hiroshima constituency by beating out a fellow Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate.

The Kawais left the ruling LDP before they were arrested in June 2020.

(XINHUA)

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