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OSAKA — Osaka Gov. “Knock” Yokoyama was ordered by a court Monday to pay 11 million yen in damages to a 21-year-old woman who was suing him for sexual harassment and seeking 15 million yen. The woman, a former Yokoyama campaign staffer who claimed he groped her in the back of a campaign van three days before winning re-election, also condemned the governor’s remarks branding her a liar and his filing of a counter-complaint against her. After Monday’s ruling, Yokoyama said he takes the decision seriously and will obey it and not file an appeal. However, he reiterated he has no intention of resigning over the scandal and declined comment on whether he thinks the amount of damages is too high. The decision marks a serious setback for the governor, who in court refused to either confirm or deny he sexually harassed the woman while calling her a liar outside the courtroom. The woman was not identified. Although Yokoyama has explained he maintained his silence in court in order to focus on his public duties, he will probably come under fire from members of the Osaka Prefectural Assembly when it convenes Wednesday. Presiding Judge Keisuke Hayashi of the Osaka District Court ruled that Yokoyama’s sexual harassment against the woman was persistent and evil. He may have premeditated the action, the judge said, ordering the governor to pay 2 million yen for the act of harassment itself. On top of that, the court ordered Yokoyama to pay 1 million yen to cover the woman’s legal fees, 5 million yen for the damage caused by his counter-complaint that he had been falsely accused by the woman and 3 million yen for his remarks after the first hearing that discredited the woman. Throughout the litigation, Yokoyama’s lawyers refused either to confirm or deny he had sexually harassed the woman, prompting the court to conclude her claim was valid. Concluding that Yokoyama did sexually harass the woman, Judge Hayashi accused the governor of filing a counter-complaint against the woman “based on lies” and blamed him for “an unprecedented illegal act by such a powerful figure as an incumbent governor to trap a 21-year-old woman with deception.” The judge also criticized Yokoyama’s attitude outside the courtroom, saying he ignored and challenged the court’s function to resolve a civil case. Yokoyama even made fun of the plaintiff, who asked the court to resolve the matter, the judge said. After the ruling, the plaintiff issued a statement through her counsel, saying the decision does not end her nightmare. “I want the governor to apologize to me, or resign,” she said in the statement. Her lawyer said they were mostly satisfied with the ruling, which not only recognized the governor engaged in harassment but also criticized his attitude toward the suit. The woman filed a criminal complaint with the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office against the governor on April 9, two days before the Osaka gubernatorial election. She claimed that on the previous day, while she was working as a staffer for Yokoyama’s re-election campaign, Yokoyama groped her for more than 30 minutes in the back seat of a campaign van. Despite the media report on the complaint, Yokoyama was re-elected with more than 2.35 million votes — an unprecedented number for any Osaka governor. Following the election, Yokoyama file a counter-complaint with prosecutors against the woman on April 15, claiming he had been falsely accused. At present no charges have been filed by the prosecutor’s office and the investigation is continuing. In August, the woman filed the damages suit with district court, but Yokoyama’s lawyers refused to either admit or deny the validity of her claim the first hearing on Oct. 4. Instead, outside the courtroom, Yokoyama called her claim an “obvious lie” and said he decided not to contest the suit in order to concentrate on his public duties. There have been an increasing number of sexual harassment lawsuits since the term first started to be recognized in Japan, about 10 years ago. Compensation awards by courts are still not as high as those in the United States, where courts can order punitive damages, but the amount is increasing in accordance with the severity of the actions.

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