The Yomiuri Shimbun Full-fledged deliberations on a bill to punish major organized crimes in the planning and preparation stages began Wednesday, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attending a House of Representatives panel session.
During a session of the Committee on Judicial Affairs, Abe sought understanding of the bill, which is intended to revise the Law on Punishment of Organized Crimes and Control of Crime Proceeds.
“We’ll continue to work thoroughly to ensure the appropriateness of investigations, to prevent people from harboring fears and concerns,” Abe said.
The government and ruling parties are aiming to pass the bill into law during the current Diet session, which is scheduled to end on June 18.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics only three years away, Abe said: “Implementing antiterrorist measures is a pressing issue. Establishing the crime of preparing for acts of terror and other offenses can help prevent serious organized crimes.”
The legislation is essential to conclude the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, to which Japan became a signatory in 2000.
“Among Group of Seven industrialized countries, only Japan has yet to conclude the convention,” Abe said. “The early conclusion of it is extremely important.”
Shiori Yamao of the Democratic Party referred to the possibility that people could be accused of a crime even for such menial acts as picking mushrooms in a protected forest.
“That won’t counter terrorism,” she said. “If surveillance by investigative authorities is reinforced, it’s nothing but harmful.”
Fierce opposition expected
At the beginning of the panel session, the ruling and opposition parties failed to reach an agreement over whether Makoto Hayashi, head of the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Affairs Bureau, should attend the session as an unsworn witness for the government. As a result, the panel’s Chairman Junji Suzuki, who is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, used his authority to take a vote.
The ruling camp wanted Hayashi to attend the panel session, saying that questions concerning specific investigations and practical matters needed to be answered by the bureau chief, who is in charge of the matter and has expertise. The DP and other parties, which want to grill Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda, opposed it. However, Hayashi’s attendance was approved with a majority vote.
The bill stipulates that if a major crime involving terrorist groups or other organized crime groups is planned by two people or more, and at least one of them is involved in the preparation of it, all operatives who take part in the planning stages of the act can be punished.
Among crimes punishable by the death penalty or more than four years of imprisonment with or without labor, the government has narrowed down the number of crimes subject to punishment in which organized criminal groups are presumed to be involved to 277.
The government and ruling parties intend to pass the bill in the lower house shortly after next month’s long holidays. However, the schedule for deliberations is tight, and the opposition bloc is highly likely to fiercely oppose it. To ensure the passage of the bill during the ongoing Diet session, some LDP members have called for the session to be extended. Speech