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Japan OKs Arrest of Lawmaker

June 19, 2002|From Associated Press

TOKYO — Japan's parliament today approved the arrest of a powerful lawmaker suspected of bribery in a scandal that has deeply embarrassed the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The decision by parliament's lower house comes two days after prosecutors sought permission to arrest Muneo Suzuki, who has been accused of accepting bribes from a lumber company. His arrest was expected sometime today.

Because he had refused to give up his seat in the lower house, Suzuki's arrest required the body's approval. A panel of ruling and opposition leaders gave the OK.

Suzuki, 54, who belonged to the largest and most powerful faction in Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, quit the party in March after the corruption allegations surfaced.

The latest scandal marks another major setback for Koizumi, who is trying to convince an increasingly skeptical public that he is delivering on promises of reforms, including ridding his party of corruption.

Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama appeared before the panel to explain why prosecutors want to make the arrest. Suzuki reportedly denied the allegation to the panel.

Tokyo prosecutors say Suzuki accepted 5 million yen ($40,000) from lumber company Yamarin in 1998 in exchange for lobbying for leniency in an illegal logging case.

Suzuki gained notoriety early this year for helping orchestrate the ouster of popular Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka. He was later summoned to testify in parliament to address allegations he profited financially from his power over the Foreign Ministry.

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