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House of Councilors lawmaker Anri Kawai was sentenced Thursday to a year and four months in prison, suspended for five years, for buying votes in the 2019 Upper House election.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that Kawai, 47, distributed money to local legislators in Hiroshima Prefecture in violation of the Public Offices Election Law. If the ruling is finalized, she will lose her status as a lawmaker.

The ruling and findings in her trial are expected to affect the case of her husband, Katsuyuki Kawai, a former justice minister who has been tried separately on vote-buying charges.

Katsuyuki Kawai, 57, a House of Representatives member, is accused of handing about ¥29 million to 100 individuals in total.

According to the indictment, Anri Kawai conspired with her husband to violate the election law by handing out ¥1.7 million in total to five local assembly members in the prefecture between March and June in 2019.

Prosecutors said the money was given as a reward for securing votes for her in the July 2019 election, and called for an 18-month prison term for Anri Kawai.

The five local politicians — four members of the Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly members and one member of the Etajima Municipal Assembly — admitted to receiving cash and testified that they thought the Kawais were asking them to secure votes for Anri in the election.

They also said they thought that the offering and receiving of such money was illegal.

The evidence brought up by prosecutors included a payment list that showed Katsuyuki Kawai organizing whether he or his wife would hand out the money, as well as to whom the payments should be sent to, according to the trial.

"It was obvious the couple were conspiring," prosecutors said.

In the election, Anri Kawai, a former prefectural assembly member, won one of the two seats in the Hiroshima constituency by beating out a fellow Liberal Democratic Party candidate, veteran incumbent Kensei Mizote.

Mizote failed to win re-election due to the conservative vote being split, with another incumbent backed by opposition parties retaining the other seat.

Prosecutors insisted that Anri Kawai's lack of support from the LDP's prefectural federation branch of Hiroshima was a motive for the vote-buying.

"They projected it would become a tough election (for her) and committed the crime," they said.

The Kawais left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party before they were arrested on June 18 of last year.

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