In blow to Japan's Abe, Tokyo top prosecutor set to resign -mediaReuters | Tokyo | Updated: 21-05-2020 14:14 IST | Created: 21-05-2020 14:01 IST
Tokyo's top prosecutor was set to resign after a report that he gambled illegally during Japan's coronavirus state of emergency, media said on Thursday, in another blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe whose support has waned over his handling of the pandemic. Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office chief Hiromu Kurokawa, who is seen as close to Abe, has been at the center of a furor over the government's efforts to raise the retirement age for prosecutors after he was allowed to stay in his post beyond the retirement age of 63.
Abe's government this week abandoned its push to enact a bill during the current session of parliament that would raise prosecutors' retirement age to 65 from 63, and let the cabinet defer retirement of senior prosecutors for a further three years, a step critics said threatened judicial independence. Opposition party lawmakers and others also said the legislation was aimed at giving a retroactive legal basis to the decision to keep Kurokawa in his post.
In the latest twist, Kurokawa was hit with a social media backlash over a media report that he allegedly played mahjong for money during the state of emergency, possibly flouting social distancing guidelines. Gambling is illegal in Japan, with some exceptions.
Abe told reporters the government was trying to confirm the facts of the matter. "Naturally, there will be criticism (over Kurokawa)," independent political analyst Atsuo Ito said. "Certainly, it will be damaging."
Also on Thursday, about 660 lawyers and scholars filed a complaint with Tokyo prosecutors seeking an investigation into whether Abe and two executives of his political support group broke campaign and funding laws by subsidizing the attendance of backers at a reception the night before a state-funded cherry blossom viewing party in 2018, Kyodo news agency reported. Abe has denied wrongdoing. He was also accused by opposition lawmakers last year of favoring supporters with invitations to the cherry blossom viewing party.
Public support for Abe has slipped over what critics say is his clumsy handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has tipped the world's third-largest economy into recession. Abe was set to lift the state of emergency in more regions on Thursday as new infections decline, acting to resume sorely needed economic activity.
Japan has not suffered the explosive surge of infections seen in many other countries, with 16,433 confirmed cases including 784 deaths as of Wednesday, according to NHK.