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Politics

Japan lawmaker Anri Kawai guilty of vote-buying in 2019 election

Ruling expected to affect case of her ex-justice minister husband

Anri Kawai, a former member of Japan's upper house of parliament, pictured in October 2019, was sentenced on Jan. 21 to 16 months in prison, suspended for five years. (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- House of Councillors member 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, western Japan, 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.

Kawai, 57, a House of Representatives member, is accused of handing about 29 million yen ($280,500) 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 yen 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 Hiroshima prefectural assembly members and one Etajima city assembly member -- 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 Kawais left the ruling Liberal Democratic Party before they were arrested on June 18, 2020.

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