Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday rejected opposition calls to launch another search for a leaked internal document that suggests he used his clout to help a longtime confidant open a new veterinary medicine department at his university.
Abe’s refusal came after the main opposition Democratic Party on Friday released copies of an email message that showed the document in question being sent to eight senior education ministry officials as an attachment.
The leak of the email, dated Sept. 27, has given the opposition fresh ammunition to demand that the government launch another search. The government previously denied the authenticity of the document, citing its unknown origin.
Addressing a Lower House committee, DP lawmaker Masato Imai listed the names of the education officials who received the email and asked whether any of them were working there.
“It is true employees with the same first and last names you just mentioned do exist in our ministry,” education official Yutaka Tokiwa answered.
Abe, for his part, stood by education minister Hirokazu Matsuno’s assertion that re-examining the document implicating Abe is unnecessary.
“Our basic policy is that we don’t usually investigate emails or documents of dubious origins unless there is obvious malpractice or a court order involved,” Matsuno said.
Abe, too, repeated that “there was no room” for his intent to be taken into consideration regarding the government’s January decision to let Kake Gakuen — an Okayama-based school operator run by Abe’s friend Kotaro Kake — open a new animal medicine department at Okayama University of Science. The school, run by Kake Gakuen, is situated in a special deregulation zone in nearby Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.
Meanwhile, more details emerged of Abe’s friendship with Kake.
Foreign Ministry official Fumio Shimizu admitted to the committee that Kake was allowed to board a state-chartered jet to accompany Abe on a trip to Myanmar in 2013 — ostensibly as part of his institution’s effort to broaden business ties with the Southeast Asian nation.
The grilling has had a noticeable effect on Abe, who has at times appeared to get emotional during questioning.
This was on full display Monday, when DP lawmaker Takeshi Miyazaki displayed a picture uploaded by the prime minister’s wife, Akie, showing her husband and Kake holding a toast with what appeared to be a glass of wine.
This clearly irritated Abe, who said it represented an attempt to manipulate public opinion against him.
“Just because Mr. Kake and I are friends doesn’t mean that I would let him get involved in policymaking,” Abe said.
The picture was uploaded to Facebook on Christmas Eve 2015, with a joking caption that said: “The boys are up to no good …”
Still, Abe was resolute in trying to defend himself from his latest school scandal.
“If I was truly up to something bad, she never would’ve posted a picture like that in the first place,” Abe told Miyazaki. “It takes three seconds to realize that.”
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