Man Sentenced for Forged Signatures for Aichi Governor Recall

A court on Wednesday convicted a former company president for recruiting people in 2020 to forge signatures required for a referendum to remove governor Aichi Hideaki Omura, saying the accused “shed light on democracy “.

The Nagoya District Court sentenced Akira Yamaguchi, 39, a former manager of an advertising company in Nagoya, to 16 months in prison, suspended for four years. The ruling said he had committed “a vicious crime which diminishes the basis of a direct democratic system and local self-government.”

According to verdict, Yamaguchi conspired with former Aichi prefectural assembly member Takahiro Tanaka, 60, and his son Masato Tanaka, 29, to get three part-time workers to write the fraudulent signatures of 71 voters. in Saga prefecture, in October 2020.

Presiding Judge Koji Yamada stressed that the accused and others attempted to “generate non-existent popular will and to dethrone the head of a local government”.

Yamaguchi “played an indispensable and important role” in the case orchestrated by the former member of the assembly, as he secured the part-time workers and prepared the place for the forging of signatures, but the punishment was suspended because he had surrendered, Yamada said. .

The recall campaign, led by outspoken plastic surgeon Katsuya Takasu and backed by Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, reflected Omura’s frustration over a controversial 2019 arts event in the prefecture, which featured a statue symbolizing Korean “comfort women” – women who suffered under the Japanese military. brothel system before and during WWII.

The issue has long been a source of diplomatic friction between Japan and South Korea.

Japan’s Local Self-Government Law states that residents can request their governor’s recall if they can collect the signatures of more than one-third of eligible voters and the electoral board recognizes them as valid.

Campaign organizers eventually submitted around 435,000 signatures to the Aichi Prefecture Election Committee, although twice as many signatures were required for a recall referendum.

In 2021, the electoral committee concluded that around 80% of the signatures collected were invalid and filed a criminal complaint for the case, which led to Yamaguchi and the Tanakas being charged with violating the law on local self-government.

Yamaguchi was the first of them to receive a conviction. Prosecutors had requested 16 months in jail, while the defense lawyer asked for a fine.

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