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Japan approves contentious bill against planning crimes

Associated Press logo Associated Press 15/06/2017
Upper house members of the ruling coalition clap their hands after parliament approved a contentious bill that makes it a crime to plan a crime, in Tokyo Thursday, June 15, 2017. The ruling coalition pushed the conspiracy legislation through the upper house, bypassing committee approval that normally precedes a vote by the full house. (Kyodo News via AP) © The Associated Press Upper house members of the ruling coalition clap their hands after parliament approved a contentious bill that makes it a crime to plan a crime, in Tokyo Thursday, June 15, 2017. The ruling coalition pushed the conspiracy legislation through the upper house, bypassing committee approval that normally precedes a vote by the full house. (Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO — Japan's ruling coalition pushed a contentious bill through parliament Thursday that makes it a crime to plan a crime.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the new law, which criminalizes the planning of 277 serious crimes, is needed to prevent terrorism, especially with the Olympics coming to Tokyo in 2020.

Opponents warned that authorities could use the legislation to limit free speech and public protests and expand surveillance of private citizens.

Abe told reporters after the vote that the government wants to use the law in a proper and effective way to protect lives and property.

The law applies to organized criminal groups of two or more people that have engaged in specific preparations for a crime, such as scouting a location, according to Japan's Kyodo News service.

About 5,000 people protested against the bill outside parliament Wednesday, Kyodo said, as upper house lawmakers hotly debated the bill. Opposition parties used delaying tactics, with the jockeying continuing into the early morning hours.

In the end, the upper house approved the bill after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito took the unusual step of bypassing committee approval, which normally precedes a vote by the full house.

The more powerful lower house passed the bill last month. At the time, opposition lawmakers in a lower house committee tried to rip documents from the hands of the chairman to prevent a committee vote.

The U.N. special rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, sent an open letter to Abe in May raising concerns over the bill. The letter expressed "serious concern" that the bill could affect the right to privacy and other freedoms if broadly applied.

Though the number of crimes covered has been reduced from more than 600 in earlier versions of the legislation, the letter noted that the bill includes crimes that have nothing to do with organized crime or terrorism, such as copyright violation and stealing lumber from forest reserves.

Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary of Abe's government, called Cannataci's concerns "utterly incorrect."

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