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A high court upheld Monday a lower court ruling that sentenced a secretary of a disgraced lawmaker to 18 months in prison, suspended for five years, for illegally paying election campaigners, a decision that will most likely cost the Upper House lawmaker her seat.

The Hiroshima High Court turned down an appeal by Hiroshi Tatemichi, 54, a state-paid secretary of former Liberal Democratic Party Upper House member Anri Kawai, 46, who is currently on trial on vote-buying charges along with her Lower House lawmaker husband Katsuyuki Kawai, who served as justice minister.

A Hiroshima District Court ruling on June 16 said Tatemichi paid a total of around ¥2.04 million ($19,300) to 14 members of Anri Kawai’s campaign staff between July 19 and 23 last year during an Upper House election, exceeding the daily legal limit of ¥15,000 each.

In the appeal trial, Tatemichi’s defense lawyer claimed he should be given a fine, rather than a prison term, because he was not involved in determining the amount of the rewards and only played a supportive role.

Anri Kawai, who left the LDP right before her arrest on June 18, will lose her Diet seat representing the Hiroshima constituency once Tatemichi’s jail term is finalized and the court recognizes the prosecutors’ request for the application of guilt by association to the public offices election law.

Her husband is known for his close ties with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who announced his intention to step down due to illness. Katsuyuki Kawai secured his first ministerial post in the Abe administration last September, but resigned the following month due to the campaigner payment scandal.

With regard to the same Upper House election, the Kawais were arrested and indicted for handing out cash to politicians and supporters in Hiroshima Prefecture to reward them for votes secured in the campaign.

In their first hearing at the Tokyo District Court on Tuesday last week, the lawmaker couple pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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