Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama was the focus of a Diet row Wednesday over alleged contradictions in her remarks over the death of a prison inmate that the opposition camp slammed as an attempt to cover the scandal up.

Moriyama has fallen into a predicament over her Diet responses regarding the December 2001 death a 43-year-old Nagoya Prison inmate. On Wednesday, the dispute led to demands by four opposition parties — the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party — for her to step down, as well as threats to boycott Diet deliberations unless the government acts to resolve the matter.

The inmate died after guards allegedly subjected him to anal torture with a high-pressure fire hose, which left him with lacerations deep in his rectum. A 46-year-old deputy chief warden suspected of giving the orders for the abuse was arrested in connection with the case Feb. 12.

At a news conference two days later, Moriyama said she “did not know at all” of the incident until the day of the arrest. Then, at a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on Tuesday, she said the incident had been brought to her attention at the end of January, but she had only learned the full details at the time of the arrest.

The comments drew fire from opposition lawmakers, who say Moriyama clearly mentioned the case during a Nov. 23 Diet session, when Tomoko Abe of the Social Democratic Party specifically asked a question about the incident at the prison, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry.

At the time, Moriyama told the House of Representatives joint committee on judicial affairs and health, labor and welfare, that prosecutors and the ministry were “now investigating the case” and would report to the Diet when a complete picture is available.

On Wednesday, Justice Ministry officials rushed to explain to the opposition parties that Moriyama had in mind a different case of fatal violence that occurred at the prison in May last year, not the incident in question. However, Abe had specifically mentioned “the December case” when asking the question.

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