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Opposition camp accuses Japan’s Finance Ministry of trying to sweep top official’s sexual harassment under the rug

JIJI

Opposition parties reacted harshly Monday to the Finance Ministry’s responses to a weekly magazine’s allegations about its top official’s sexual harassment of female reporters, saying the ministry is trying to cover up the misconduct.

Earlier in the day, the ministry released top bureaucrat Junichi Fukuda’s denial of the allegations made during a recent interview conducted chiefly by a senior ministry official and requested that female reporters at the ministry’s press club cooperate with an investigation into the matter by a ministry-entrusted group of lawyers if they were actually harassed by Fukuda.

In the afternoon, parliamentary affairs chiefs from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, Kibo no To (Party of Hope) and the Japanese Communist Party shared the stance of not accepting the ministry’s moves.

“The ministry deserves criticism for organizationally hiding the sexual harassment and putting pressure on its victims,” Kiyomi Tsujimoto, Diet affairs chief of the CDPJ, told reporters after the meeting.

Akira Koike, head of the JCP secretariat, said at a news conference that the ministry took the action “because it knew no reporters would be able to declare themselves as victims.”

“Japan will become a country where sexual harassment is allowed,” he added.

Teruhiko Mashiko, secretary-general of the Democratic Party, told a separate news conference that although Finance Minister Taro Aso has said that it will be “over” for Fukuda if the allegations were true, “it will be both Fukuda and the ministry that will be finished.”

In a related development the same day, six opposition parties held a joint hearing with ministry officials in the Diet building.

Accusing the ministry of not conducting voiceprint analysis on audio data, posted on the weekly magazine’s website as evidence of the alleged misbehavior by Fukuda, the opposition camp called for confirmation of whether recorded remarks were made by him.

Meanwhile, Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, expressed willingness to take a wait-and-see stance, saying at a news conference that he wants the ministry to listen to explanations by all the parties involved.