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High-profile journalist with close Abe ties accused of rape

by

Staff Writer

A 28-year-old woman has accused a former TV reporter, regarded as one of the journalists closest to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, of raping her two years ago.

The woman, who only gave her first name as Shiori, alleged in a news conference on Monday that Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a former Washington bureau chief of Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, raped her at a Tokyo hotel on April 4, 2015, when she lost consciousness after having dinner and drinks with Yamaguchi.

It is extremely rare in Japan for a woman to go before TV cameras and openly talk about the experience of being raped. She gave the news conference at the Tokyo District Court alongside a lawyer.

“I have come to believe I should tell the public how terrible rape is, and how big an impact it can have on your life,” a tearful Shiori said.

She said she met Yamaguchi after he offered to help her find a job as a journalist, according to a document handed out at the news conference. It was the first time for them to meet one-on-one, she said.

Yamaguchi, who has boasted about his strong friendship with Abe, is known as one of just a few journalists who can make direct phone calls to the prime minister. He has recently published two books detailing inside stories from Abe’s Cabinet.

Yamaguchi had often been invited as a political commentator on TV news programs, but he stopped appearing in public after the Shukan Shincho weekly first reported the rape allegations earlier this month.

Later Monday on his Facebook page, Yamaguchi responded to the news conference, claiming he has “never done anything illegal.” Police already investigated the allegation for more than one year and eventually decided not to charge him, Yamaguchi wrote.

But during the news conference, Shiori said she filed on Monday a request that the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution review the case, seeking the indictment of Yamaguchi.

According to Shiori, in 2015 investigators obtained an arrest warrant for Yamaguchi on suspicion of “quasi-rape” after examining footage from a security camera at the hotel and the testimony of the taxi driver who brought the two to the hotel. Under Japanese law, quasi-rape refers to having sex with a woman by taking advantage of her unconsciousness or other conditions.

Police officers were ready to arrest Yamaguchi at Narita airport on June 8, 2015, but they ended up letting him walk “because of an instruction” from higher-ranking police officials, Shiori quoted a police officer as saying.

At inquest committees, 11 citizens review cases and decide whether or not to urge prosecutors to indict a suspect. To make a recommendation, eight or more members must vote in agreement.

Prosecutors can reject the recommendation from the committee once, but if the committee makes the same recommendation a second time, a suspect is automatically indicted and taken to trial.