• Kyodo News

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The Supreme Court, the Justice Ministry and the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office have received several letters containing threatening images or unknown liquids and also calling for the cancellation of the lay judge system that debuts May 21, police and investigative sources said Friday.

Tokyo police said they are investigating what appears to be a case of intimidation, which is a criminal offense.

The Metropolitan Police Department said 20 letters each were sent to the Justice Ministry and the prosecutor’s office, and about a dozen to the Supreme Court between late April and early May.

Small soy sauce containers filled with light green and clear liquids were enclosed in some of the letters. The police are trying to identify the substances.

Illustrations of a beheaded parrot character were also contained in some of them. The name of the character, “saiban-inko,” was coined from the words “saiban-in” (lay judge) and “inko” (parrot). The Justice Ministry uses the character as a mascot to publicize the citizen judge system. The letters bore postmarks ranging from Hokkaido to the Kansai region.

Under the lay judge system, six citizens will join three professional judges in trying serious crimes, including murder, arson and rape, in district courts. Verdicts are to be set when the nine-member panels reach a majority decision.

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