National / Crime & Legal

Man held in blackmail threats linked to retracted sex slave reports

Kyodo

Police arrested a 64-year old man suspected of phoning in threats to a university in Hokkaido in connection with reports published by the daily Asahi Shimbun on the “comfort women” issue, sources said.

The suspect, Tsutomu Kamimura, is alleged to have made the call to pressure the school, Hokusei Gakuen University in Sapporo, into sacking a part-time lecturer who as a reporter for the major daily had written articles on the mostly Asian women who were forced to work at wartime brothels for the Japanese military.

In August, the newspaper retracted some of its articles on the sex slave issue from the 1980s and 1990s, saying one of its sources, Seiji Yoshida, had been discredited. Yoshida told the daily that women on the Korean resort island of Jeju had been forcibly and violently taken to the brothels.

Threatening letters were sent to Hokusei Gakuen’s president in May and July, saying students would be hurt as a “divine retribution” unless it forced the former reporter to quit, the sources said. The mail also contained push pins.

Subsequently, a man phoned the school to say he would “blow up the university.”

A man in his 60s in Niigata Prefecture surfaced as a suspect and was questioned after the police looked into phone records, the sources said. The police are expected to try to determine whether he is linked to the letters, too.

The part-time lecturer has been teaching international students at the university since April 2012, when he was still employed by the daily, the school said.

In a separate incident in connection with the Asahi stories, a similar blackmail letter was sent to top officials of the operator of Tezukayama Gakuin University in Osakasayama, Osaka Prefecture, in September, where another former Asahi reporter worked as a professor.

The letter contained a threat to hurt the students with a nail-studded gas bomb, according to other investigative sources. No one has been held over the case so far.

The authors of the retracted stories were not specified.

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