Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said Friday she has begun personally reading all complaints filed by prisoners following revelations that a 43-year-old Nagoya Prison inmate was fatally brutalized by guards in December 2001.

The victim had been anally assaulted with a high-pressure fire hose, but the Justice Ministry later claimed the inmate’s wounds were self-inflicted.

Under Prison Law, prisoner complaints must be handed unopened to the justice minister. However, they have customarily been screened by prison or Justice Ministry officials. Moriyama said she began reading the complaints Thursday.

After Friday’s Cabinet meeting, she admitted she should “carefully examine all the complaints from now on.”

During Diet deliberations in December, Moriyama said the ministry received about 3,000 such complaints from prisoners between January and November of that year.

Despite the stipulations of the Prison Law, Moriyama admitted she had never read a single complaint since assuming her post in April 2001.

The minister has drawn fire from the opposition camp over alleged contradictions in her Diet responses regarding the death of the Nagoya Prison inmate. Reports of the death came on the heels of other alleged abuses, both injurious and fatal, at the prison, and the subsequent arrest of guards for those incidents.

Opposition lawmakers claimed the ministry had attempted to cover up the 2001 killing, as the injuries that led to the inmate’s death were listed as self-inflicted.

Moriyama apologized Friday for failing to properly and fully respond in the Diet sessions. She maintained that there were no contradictions or lies in her remarks.

The ministry may take punitive action against the officials responsible for killing the inmate, she said Friday. Last week, an assistant warden was arrested in connection with the slaying.

But Moriyama said she would not be among those held responsible, claiming it is merely her responsibility to prevent a recurrence.

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