Lawmaker must pay for soiling Suzuki

Kyodo

An opposition Diet member was given a court order Friday to pay 1 million yen to lawmaker Muneo Suzuki, who is awaiting trial on bribery charges, for calling him “Japan’s dirtiest politician.”

The Sapporo High Court overruled a lower court decision that had dismissed a libel suit by Suzuki against Naoki Minezaki, a House of Councilors member of the Democratic Party of Japan.

Suzuki, a House of Representatives member who served as minister heading the Hokkaido-Okinawa development agencies between September 1997 and July 1998, had demanded in his libel suit that Minezaki pay 10 million yen in damages.

According to the ruling, Minezaki referred to Suzuki as “Japan’s dirtiest politician” during a meeting in Sapporo of a local government labor union in July 2000, following the general elections.

Minezaki used a similar expression on his Web site, where he criticized Suzuki’s alleged pork-barrel politics, the court found.

The lower court in June 2001 dismissed the suit, saying it was difficult to see how a person’s social status would suffer simply due to being called “dirty,” and that the court cannot recognize that the use of such an expression is “insulting beyond what is socially acceptable.”

Suzuki, 54, has been indicted on four charges, including bribery and perjury charges.