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Democratic Party of Japan executives are considering suspending former leader Ichiro Ozawa’s party membership, the lightest punishment under the DPJ’s code of ethics, following his indictment this week over a funds scandal, they said Wednesday.

The DPJ leaders are not considering asking the former DPJ president to leave the party, mindful of widening an internal rift between the pro- and anti-Ozawa camps.

The DPJ is scheduled to hold a meeting of party executives Thursday to discuss how to deal with longtime power broker Ozawa, but it is unlikely they will reach a conclusion.

Even if he is suspended, Ozawa can continue to serve as a DPJ lawmaker and would not be prevented from carrying out political activities. But he would face many restrictions, including not being able to run in an election as an official DPJ candidate.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the current DPJ leader, faces a difficult balancing act as Ozawa’s allies in the party are opposed to him receiving any form of punishment.

Ozawa, who has denied any wrongdoing, was indicted Monday over alleged false reporting by his political fund management body. The party heavyweight said he wants to continue as a DPJ lawmaker.

Hatoyama backs Ozawa

Staff report

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama voiced hope Wednesday that Ichiro Ozawa will prove his innocence in his trial and once again head the Democratic Party of Japan.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Hatoyama, an ally of Ozawa, said Japan needs a leader like him to get through these politically and economically tough times. Ozawa was charged Monday over his money scandal.

“By proving his innocence, I believe that there is full possibility that Mr. Ozawa will, once again, give full play to his abilities and be a strong source of power that will open Japan’s future prospects.”

Hatoyama was quick to slam economic and fiscal policy minister Kaoru Yosano for joining the Cabinet despite harshly criticizing the DPJ. Yosano was a Liberal Democratic Party veteran but jumped ship after it fell out of power and cofounded Tachiagare Nippon (Sunrise Party of Japan).

Yosano “formed a party to bring down the DPJ . . . (and then) he one day out of the blue began to cooperate with the party he was criticizing.”

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