About a dozen former prosecutors are set to submit a letter expressing opposition to selectively postponing retirement for prosecutors, as is planned by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, amid growing criticism from the public and opposition parties, sources close to the matter said Thursday.
Members planning to submit the letter to the Justice Ministry include former Prosecutor General Kunihiro Matsuo, who was involved in investigations into the Lockheed payout scandal that led to the arrest of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka in 1976.
The bill to amend the public prosecutor’s office law, which has been under deliberation in parliament since last month, calls for raising the retirement age for prosecutors from 63 to 65. It will also allow prosecution executives to remain in their positions until age 66, beyond their retirement age of 63, with the Cabinet’s approval.
Similarly, the bill will allow raising of the attorney general’s retirement age, currently set at 65, to 68 at most with Cabinet approval.
Critics say such changes could damage a fair judicial system by enabling the administration to decide which prosecutors can stay in office longer. Bar associations across the country have opposed the changes.
Celebrities in the nation have also taken to Twitter to express opposition, with many saying the government is trying to railroad the bill at a time when it should focus on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
The number of tweets opposing the ruling coalition’s attempt to push through the bill had surpassed 700,000 as of early Friday.
The Abe administration came under fire earlier this year after it allowed Hiromu Kurokawa, widely believed to be favored by the prime minister’s office, to remain in place as chief of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutor’s Office after he turned 63.
The move spurred speculation the government was seeking to promote Kurokawa as a successor to Attorney General Nobuo Inada, who is likely to retire in July.
Meanwhile, investigative sources said Thursday that Kurokawa may have been the target of a blackmail attempt.
He received an envelope containing a letter and a utility knife blade on Wednesday afternoon. The letter made reference to a cronyism scandal involving Abe and a school operator, according to the sources.
The Cabinet endorsed the six-month extension of Kurokawa’s retirement age in January. The move deviated from the government’s past stance of considering prosecutors as not subject to the law on public servants, which allows for retirement to be delayed by up to one year.