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Hana Kimura death: Cyberbullying suspect faces possible charges

Police say Osaka area man sent hateful, anonymous posts to 'Terrace House' star

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A man in his 20s from the western Japan prefecture of Osaka is likely to be referred to prosecutors soon for posting hateful messages against Hana Kimura, a cast member on the popular reality TV show "Terrace House" who was found dead in a suspected suicide earlier this year, investigative sources said Wednesday.

The man is suspected by Tokyo police of having cyberbullied Kimura on Twitter by repeatedly leaving anonymous comments such as "Is there any value to your life?" and "Hey, when are you going to die?" on her posts around mid-May, the sources allege.

While the police also confirmed that around 300 hateful messages had been left from around 200 other accounts, they deemed that the man needed to be charged with criminal liability as his posts were particularly malicious.

Kimura, a 22-year-old professional wrestler who was among the six members of the now-canceled series "Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020," was found dead at her apartment in Tokyo in May in a suspected suicide.

The police believe the hateful messages prompted her to take her own life.

A scene in a late March episode from the series, in which Kimura lost her temper at a male cast member who accidentally shrank one of her wrestling costumes while doing laundry, had triggered cyberbullying against her.

On the day of her death, the Yokohama native tweeted, "I receive nearly 100 honest opinions every day and I cannot deny that it hurts my feelings."

The man, who has admitted to a charge of public insult, told the police during voluntary questioning he "wanted to get back at [Kimura] after seeing her act violently toward a male [cast member] on the show." He also sent an apology email to her family in June, according to investigators.

The charge carries with it a punishment of being detained for up to 29 days or a fine of at least 1,000 yen ($10) to no more than 10,000 yen.

Kimura's case highlighted the issue of cyberbullying and prompted calls for more action to prevent and track down anonymous users posting defamatory comments.

The police, who have been examining the social media posts since Kimura's death, found around 1,200 messages, including positive ones, posted by around 600 accounts directed at her. They opened an official investigation after her family filed a criminal complaint in late November.

Although the man had since deleted his comments, the police were able to identify him as the poster based on screenshots Kimura had taken on her smartphone.

Kimura's mother also submitted documents to the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization in July claiming the reality show violated her daughter's personal and human rights.

"Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020" was the latest in a series that began in 2012. The show, which was broadcast by Fuji Television and also aired on U.S. streaming service Netflix with English subtitles, featured three women and three men sharing a house in Tokyo.

The cast members are "looking for love while living under the same roof," and there is "no script" in the show, according to Netflix.

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