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The Tokyo High Public Prosecutor’s Office decided Tuesday to suspend a prison sentence handed down against former construction minister Eiichi Nakao, who was found guilty of bribe taking, because he is ill.

The prosecutor’s office said the 74-year-old would be unable to withstand imprisonment. He has been receiving medical treatment involving occasional hospitalizations. The nature of his illness has not been disclosed.

The sentence was confirmed with a Supreme Court ruling in September, but Nakao had yet to enter prison.

Nakao’s lawyers had claimed their client could not serve time in prison due to his health condition, and prosecutors looked into the situation.

On Sept. 8, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from Nakao, who had been sentenced to 22 months in prison and fined 60 million yen for accepting bribes.

The bribes were given by Tokyo-based Wakachiku Construction Co. in 1996 in return for Nakao promising to favor the company in bidding for public works projects, the Tokyo High Court said in its November 2003 ruling.

Nakao, a veteran lawmaker, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1967 and became construction minister in January 1996 after serving as minister of international trade and industry. He retired from politics after losing in a lower-house election in June 2000.

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