Japan accused of stifling freedom with new terror law

Japan accused of stifling freedom with new terror law”

A so-called "anti-conspiracy Bill" aimed at tackling plans to commit terrorism and other serious crimes has been passed in Japan despite fears of curbs on civil liberties.

Despite vocal opposition to the bill, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed the legislation through the upper house on Thursday. "That's why the law was enacted", he said.

While technically allowed, the move circumvents the conventional legislative process.

"What's the rush? I can not help but think the way the bill is being steamrolled represents the government's wish to hurry up and end the Diet session", Renho said.

The law passed the Diet (parliament) in the early hours of Thursday morning after a raucous session that concluded with the government circumventing an Upper House committee vote.

The bill was revised several times over the years as earlier versions met with fierce resistance and did not make it through parliament.

The bill, a reworking of three previous failed bills that had sought to introduce a conspiracy charge, would amend the law on organized crime to punish members of terrorist groups or other organized criminal groups for the planning and preparation of 277 different crimes, ranging from arson to copyright violation.

In light of the situation with regards to the bill, a survey last month, done by Kyodo News agency showed that voters are split over the bill, with support at 39.9% and opposition at 41.4%.

About 5,000 people protested against the bill outside parliament Wednesday, Kyodo said, as upper house lawmakers hotly debated the bill.

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

"It's only three years until the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and so I'd like to ratify the treaty on organized crime as soon as possible so we can firmly cooperate with global society to prevent terrorism", Prime Minister Abe told reporters.

The ruling camp has said that it is essential for Japan to also add its name ahead of hosting the Rugby World Cup here in 2019 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics thereafter in 2020.

However, many in the opposition and civil rights groups have accused Tokyo of conveniently using the marquee sporting event to justify the need for the controversial law.

The bill also drew criticism from the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, who said it could lead to excessive constraints on the rights to freedom of speech and privacy owing to its potentially wide reaching scope.

Four major opposition parties, including the Democratic Party, agreed to continue pursuing all possible means to block the passage of the bill.

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