Japanese Political Group Accused of Disrupting By-Election Campaign Speeches in Tokyo

A political group in Japan has been accused of disrupting campaign speeches during a House of Representatives by-election that was held in Tokyo Constituency No. 15 in April. Three members of the Tsubasa no To group were arrested on Friday 27 May by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). The group’s chief, Atsuhiko Kurokawa (45), its candidate in the election, Ryosuke Nemoto (29), and its campaign division head, Hayato Sugita (39), were each charged. The police are investigating a number of further complaints against the group.

The group, which claimed that its actions were “within the freedom of expression, election and political activities recognized by the law,” is accused of screaming over a loudspeaker and honking a car horn, thus effectively preventing the speeches of rival independent candidate Hirotada Ototake and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike in front of JR Kameido Station between roughly 11 a.m. and 11:50 a.m. on 16 April. The police warned the three on the following day that their actions could violate the Public Offices Election Law, but they “continued to obstruct other campaigns”.

The accusations are rare in Japanese politics, with no sitting MP having previously been arrested for disrupting a speech. The MPD views the group’s acts as violating not only its right of freedom of expression and speech, but constituting the obstruction of an election. The police have created a special investigative unit to look into the group and its activities, which were posted on social media and video-sharing sites during the campaign.

 

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