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'Challenge to Democracy': Tokyo Police Arrest Three Tsubasa Party Leaders

TOKYO, May 17 (News On Japan) - Tokyo Metropolitan Police have arrested three leaders of the political group 'Tsubasa Party' on suspicion of violating the Public Offices Election Act by disrupting the speeches of other candidates during a House of Representatives by-election in Tokyo's 15th district. Investigators view this as a "challenge to democracy" and plan to pursue a thorough investigation.

Reporter: "It's 10:45 a.m. The car carrying suspect Kurokawa is entering the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters."

The man being taken in with a peace sign, swaying from side to side with a smile, is Atsuhiko Kurokawa, 45, the leader of the Tsubasa Party, arrested on suspicion of violating the Public Offices Election Act.

Additionally, the police arrested Secretary-General Ryosuke Nemoto, 29, and senior member Hayato Sugita, 39.

The charges involve "obstruction of freedom" during the by-election for Tokyo's 15th district held last month.

Kurokawa was seen repeatedly obstructing the campaign car and audience of independent candidate Hirotada Ototake. Climbing onto a phone booth, he shouted, "Ototake!" Nemoto, also a candidate, used a loudspeaker from atop the phone booth to disrupt the speech.

These actions were deemed to violate the Public Offices Election Act's "obstruction of freedom" provision.

Reporter: "Tokyo Metropolitan Police investigators are entering the Tsubasa Party office for a search."

The Second Investigation Division, responsible for probing election violations, has conducted an "unprecedented" investigation.

On May 13, the police raided locations related to the Tsubasa Party and seized campaign vehicles and other items used in election activities. That day, Kurokawa stated:

Tsubasa Party Leader Atsuhiko Kurokawa: "This was an act based on freedom of speech. While I recognize it was somewhat rough, it is absolutely unacceptable for those in power to stop acts of speech."

Kurokawa denied any wrongdoing, citing "freedom of speech."

However, a senior investigator from the police department commented: "The actions of the Tsubasa Party go beyond the freedom of election and are seen as a challenge to democracy. The intimidation was severe, and voluntary investigations have their limits."

Candidate Ototake, who had his speech disrupted, commented, "I earnestly hope that such malicious actions, which deprive voters of their right to listen, will not be repeated."

Witness: "That car over there, stop! Constitutional Democratic Party! Stop the car of the Constitutional Democratic Party! I'm reporting to the police!"

The Tsubasa Party has also received numerous complaints from other political camps. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police's Second Investigation Division has established a "special investigation headquarters" to fully uncover the details of this unprecedented election law violation case.

Source: TBS

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