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Ex-Japanese Justice Minister accepts prison term over vote buying

Tokyo : A three-year prison term over vote buying for former Japanese Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai was finalised after he withdrew his appeal.

Kawai, who held the ministerial post in former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, is the first former Japanese cabinet member in more than 10 years to have a prison term finalised, reports Xinhua news agency.

He was charged with distributing about 28.7 million yen ($251,600) to 100 local assembly members and supporters to buy votes for his wife in the upper house election in Hiroshima prefecture two years ago.

His defense team filed an appeal after the Tokyo District Court sentenced the former minister to three years in prison this June.

However, his lawyer said Kawai withdrew the appeal on Thursday.

“The responsibility is solely on me, and I am ready to accept it all,” Kawai said in a statement released through his lawyer.

“I ask for leniency on the people who have accepted cash.”

As a result, his civil rights will be suspended, and he will not be allowed to run for election until five years after his service of the sentence.

Kawai pleaded not guilty in his first hearing in August last year, but he admitted most of the charges in March and requested a suspended sentence.

He gave up his lower house seat in April, saying he would bear the responsibility for causing public mistrust in politics.

His wife Anri Kawai was also sentenced over distributing money to local legislators in Hiroshima in January to 16 months in jail, suspended for five years.

The ruling was finalised in February.

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