Prison term sought for Suzuki aide

Prosecutors demanded an 18-month prison sentence Tuesday for a former aide to embattled Lower House member Muneo Suzuki over a rigged bid for a government-funded project on Kunashiri Island.

Akira Miyano, a former state-funded secretary to Suzuki, is accused of giving the price budgeted for construction of the House of Friendship to two construction firms in 1999.

The building is on Kunashiri, a Russian-held island claimed by Japan.

The prosecution said Miyano directed the scheme in an attempt to provide profits to the two Hokkaido firms, which made political donations to Suzuki, a lawmaker from Hokkaido who is facing trial for bribery.

Miyano, 55, has pleaded not guilty, claiming he only helped the companies get to know each other for the bidding.

The trial sessions are expected to be concluded with a final defense plea on May 19.

Miyano is also charged with violating the Political Funds Management Law by failing to declare some 100 million yen in donations to Suzuki.

House of Representatives member Suzuki, 55, faces two counts of accepting bribes, amounting to 11 million yen, from the two Hokkaido companies, as well as charges of perjury and falsifying political funds reports in 1998. He has pleaded not guilty.

In March 2002, after the scandal broke, Suzuki left the Liberal Democratic Party to become an independent but has refused to give up his Diet seat despite his arrest, saying he is not guilty of any wrongdoing.