• Jiji, Kyodo

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A prosecution inquest panel has upheld a decision by public prosecutors not to indict former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over a dinner party held by his support group.

The Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, a panel of citizens, said in a ruling issued on Sept. 15 that the prosecutors' decision was reasonable.

Abe had been accused of violating the political funds control law by receiving discounts from a Tokyo hotel over the costs of the dinner party.

Filing the accusation with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office against Abe and a former secretary to him, a civic group claimed that the discounts amounted to donations.

In the ruling, the inquest panel said that the process to determine the party costs amounted to price negotiations as part of a usual business transaction, dismissing the accusation.

The panel also ruled that it was unjust not to indict the secretary, who was chief of the Abe support group, and a former treasurer of Abe's fund management organization over their failure to save dinner party receipts and send them to a treasurer of the Abe support group.

Based on the ruling, the prosecutor's office will reopen an investigation into the pair.

Referring to the rulings, Abe said in a statement that he will calmly wait to see how investigative authorities respond.

In July, another inquest panel ruled that it was unjust not to indict Abe over payments made by his side to cover some dinner party costs for participants, accusing him of making donations to voters in violation of election law.

The panel also said Abe should be indicted over his failure in his duty of care to the treasurer of his fund management organization.

The prosecutor's office is now reinvestigating those two cases.

Asked about the latest ruling by the prosecution inquest panel, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Thursday that the government will refrain from commenting on the panel's rulings on individual cases.

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