Lawmakers strongly criticized the Justice Ministry on Thursday for what they called its leniency in reprimanding a former high-ranking prosecutor.
Giichi Tsunoda of the Democratic Party of Japan said that although prosecutors under the ministry accused bureaucrats of other ministries of being entertained by people in the private sector, the ministry did not recognize similar wining and dining as bribery when it was applied to those in its own ranks.
It is unfair for the ministry to differentiate between Justice Ministry officials and other ministry officials, Tsunoda said. Four Finance Ministry officials were found guilty last year of being entertained by people in the private sector under their ministry’s jurisdiction.
Tsunoda made the remark at a session of the Upper House Judicial Affairs Committee during which lawmakers questioned ministry officials about the resignation of Mamoru Norisada, 60, former head of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Norisada tendered his resignation Monday in connection with his affair with a 28-year-old former bar hostess after the Justice Ministry concluded that he should not be reprimanded based on the National Civil Service Law. The ministry had investigated allegations the woman reportedly made in a magazine article that Norisada had used public funds to take her on a trip, and found no wrongdoing on his part.
Norisada was allegedly entertained by a businessman who reportedly introduced the woman to him at the bar where she worked.
Keiichi Tadaki, director general of the Justice Ministry secretariat, defended the ministry’s conclusion, saying that although Norisada used to meet the businessman at the bar, he paid his own way.
Tadaki added the businessman was not directly related to Norisada’s duties.
Meanwhile, Mizuho Fukushima, a member of the Social Democratic Party, strongly criticized as an insult to women a remark made by another high-ranking prosecutor that extracurricular activities are a source of vitality for prosecutors.
“The remark indicates that the prosecutor does not recognize women as equal partners for men but sees them as the source of vitality,” said Fukushima, a veteran lawyer who specializes in women’s issues. She questioned whether it is appropriate for the nation to have such people as public prosecutors.
Katsumasa Horiguchi, deputy prosecutor general of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office, who has emerged as the most likely successor to Norisada, made the remark when asked to comment on Norisada’s resignation.
Public Prosecutor General Keisuke Kitajima replied to Fukushima that he verbally instructed Horiguchi not to make careless remarks.
Justice Minister Takao Jinnouchi said that an official in his position should use more discretion when making comments.