Japan accused of stifling freedom with new terror law

Marsha Scott
June 26, 2017

The government argues that the law is needed to improve security ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Japan.

But critics say it weakens civil liberties and could be abused to monitor and target innocent citizens.

Tokyo insists the law - which calls for a prison term of up to five years for planning serious crimes - is a prerequisite for implementing a United Nations treaty against transnational organised crime which Japan signed in 2000. "That's why the law was enacted".

Protestors with banners, placards and leaflets have been regularly rallying in their thousands around parliament in Tokyo of late seeking for the bill to be scrapped.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government passed controversial legislation that gives prosecutors the power to monitor and arrest people in the planning stages of crimes.

"It's only three years until the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and so I'd like to ratify the treaty on organised crime as soon as possible so we can firmly cooperate with worldwide society to prevent terrorism".

To try to speed up passage of the law, the ruling bloc took the rare, contentious step of skipping a vote in an upper house committee and moving directly to a vote in the full upper house.

"This is an ultimate form of forced vote - it shut down sensible debate in the upper house", Renho, head of the leading opposition Democratic Party who goes by one name, told reporters.

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The laws have provoked protests since December, growing in intensity over recent weeks, after the extent of Abe's new laws became public knowledge.

The Japanese Upper House of Parliament approved an amendment to the organised crime law which will penalise for the first time criminal conspiracy, which is defined as an organisation or group of persons planning to commit a crime (out of a total of 277 typified), or to prepare for it, reports Efe news.

The measures would allow a widening of scope for legal wiretapping, with courts more likely to grant police powers for surveillance.

Abe described Cannataci's assessment as "extremely unbalanced" and said his conduct was "hardly that of an objective expert".

Cannataci stated on Thursday that the Japanese government had used "the psychology of fear" to push through "defective legislation".

Mr Abe's Liberal Democrats (LDP) and like-minded parties control two-thirds of both houses, however, meaning the bill easily passed, by 165 votes for with 70 against.

With an estimated amount of 5,000 people demonstrated in front of the parliament building, denouncing the new law as "autocratic" and vowing to prevent Japan from turning into a "surveillance society". He added that he had identified "significant worrying signals" in Japan's record on freedom of expression, the Guardian reported.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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