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Saturday, March 18, 2006
Lower House wants Nishimura to quit
By MASAMI ITO
The House of Representatives passed a resolution Friday urging former Democratic Party of Japan member Shingo Nishimura, who is on trial for allegedly violating the Attorney's Law, to step down.
The resolution was passed at a plenary session of the House of Representatives with majority support from all parties, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, as well as the leading opposition party, the DPJ, from which Nishimura was expelled last November following his arrest.
The resolution is nonbinding, however.
Despite the allegations against him, Nishimura has repeatedly said he plans to remain in the Diet, and he did so again Friday, telling reporters, "I can't relinquish my Diet seat so easily."
At a news conference after the vote, DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama said he and his fellow DPJ members voted for the resolution.
"Nishimura should accept the gravity of the decision made by the (Lower) House and I believe he should resign his post as a Diet member as soon as possible," Hatoyama said.
Nishimura "himself has admitted to violating the Attorney's Law, and (the DPJ) has already recommended (to him) that he resign as Diet member," he added.
Friday's resolution is the fourth time the Diet has recommended that a member of the upper or lower chamber step down. Lawmakers censured with such resolutions in the past include former LDP lawmaker Muneo Suzuki, who was convicted of bribery.
Nishimura was arrested in Osaka last November on suspicion of illegally allowing an employee, Koji Suzuki, to practice law without a license by acting as Nishimura's representative to clients.
Nishimura has also been charged with violating the Organized Crime Offenses Law for receiving an estimated 34 million yen from Suzuki, who collected out-of-court settlement money in traffic accident cases on behalf of Nishimura's law firm between 1998 and 2004.
Nishimura was first elected to the Lower House in 1993 and is serving his fifth term.
A conservative, Nishimura is known for his strong support for groups working on behalf of Japanese abductees to North Korea.
In 1997, he visited the disputed, but Japan-controlled, Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, sovereignty over which is claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan.
Nishimura was also forced out as deputy director general of the Defense Agency in 1999 after suggesting in an interview that Japan should develop nuclear weapons.