• Jiji, Kyodo


Freelance journalist Shiori Ito filed a damages suit against ruling party member Mio Sugita on Thursday, accusing the lawmaker of liking many tweets defaming her and causing her emotional distress.

In the suit filed with the Tokyo District Court, the 31-year-old journalist sought ¥2.2 million in damages.

In a country where few sexual assault victims come forward, Ito has become a symbol of Japan's movement against sexual abuse after going public with a rape accusation against Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a former Washington bureau chief of Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc.

The district court last December ordered Yamaguchi, a biographer of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to pay ¥3.3 million in damages to Ito, recognizing he "had sexual intercourse without the consent of Ito, who was in a state of intoxication and unconscious."

Sugita, 53, a Liberal Democratic Party member in the House of Representatives, in June and July 2018 liked tweets defaming Ito over the rape case, and criticized Ito on a BBC program, according to the complaint in Thursday's suit and informed sources.

The lawmaker had some 110,000 followers on her Twitter account as of the end of June 2018.

Lawyer Katsuhiko Tsukuda, who represents Ito, told a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday that liking the tweets is the equivalent of "group bullying," adding Sugita must be responsible for her actions even if it is in cyberspace.

Ito says the tweets that Sugita liked included a post that says Ito should stop pretending to be a rape victim.

Sugita's office declined to comment on the suit, saying that the complaint has yet to arrive.

Sugita came under criticism two years ago for saying the government should not support sexual-minority couples because they cannot bear offspring and thus are not "productive."

Ito on Thursday also sued a former associate professor of the University of Tokyo, Shohei Osawa, for several tweets she says defamed her.

According to the complaint, also filed with the Tokyo District Court, Ito is seeking ¥1.1 million in damages for several posts by Osawa, including one that called Ito an "enemy of men" after her June lawsuit against cartoonist Toshiko Hasumi.

Ito is seeking ¥5.5 million from Hasumi for five posts she made between June 2017 and last December that included an illustration of a woman who appears to be Ito, and ¥2.2 million from a designer and a doctor, both men, who allegedly spread the posts.

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