Outgoing Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, whose tenure can be described as one long run-in with the media, won 3 million yen in damages Tuesday in a libel suit against a monthly magazine.
Presiding Judge Koichi Shinano at the Tokyo District Court acknowledged part of Mori’s claims against the monthly magazine Uwasa no Shinso (The Truth of Rumors) and its publisher, Yasunori Okadome, saying the magazine had defamed Mori and ordering them to pay the damages.
However, the judge also said it was “hard to understand why Prime Minister Mori, who is in a position to best explain details of the matter, would not submit evidence that would actively refute the allegation.”
The magazine, in its June issue released in May last year, said the prime minister was detained by the Metropolitan Police Department in 1958, when he was a 20-year-old student at Waseda University, on suspicion of violating the anti-prostitution law.
Mori had demanded that the magazine pay 10 million yen in damages. and run advertisements apologizing for the article. Upon requests from the magazine publisher, the court had instructed the Metropolitan Police Department to submit its records on Mori in connection with the allegation. However, the MPD refused to comply, saying police collect and keep records on past crimes only to be used in criminal investigations.
Judge Shinano turned down Mori’s claim for damages over the allegation he violated the anti-prostitution law. But he acknowledged that the magazine defamed Mori by writing, also in the same article, that his relations with his wife were soured because of his extramarital affairs.
The reference to his extramarital affair lacked sufficient credibility, the judge said in awarding the 3 million yen to Mori.
Last November, the magazine filed a countersuit against Mori, demanding he pay 10 million yen for damaging its reputation by initiating the libel suit, which claims the story is groundless. The magazine maintains the story is true. A lawyer for Mori indicated that the prime minister may appeal the case to a higher court, saying he could not agree to part of Tuesday’s ruling.
Okadome, the magazine’s publisher, also said he plans to appeal the ruling.
“The court apparently avoided a clear-cut judgment because it thought exposing an arrest record by the prime minister would shame the nation,” he said. “The ruling was made because of political considerations.”
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