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Friday, Sept. 15, 2006

SUIT ALLEGES STATE INTERVENTION

Abe, LDP sued over history text approval


Staff writer

A group of people Thursday filed a lawsuit against Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party with the Tokyo District Court, claiming they broke the law by intervening in the approval process for a revisionist history text.

The textbook has been publicly criticized for whitewashing the country's militaristic past, including justifying Japan's invasion of East Asia in the early 20th century.

The 193 plaintiffs include teachers, parent-teacher association members, residents of Tokyo's Suginami Ward -- which approved the textbook -- and 54 Korean nationals. They are suing for a combined 386,000 yen, or 2,000 yen each, in compensation for emotional suffering.

They allege that Abe and the LDP pressured the education ministry in 2001 to endorse the textbook, which was edited by nationalist scholars at the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform.

The plaintiffs also are asking that Abe and the LDP to be ordered to publish a letter of apology in Japanese and Korean newspapers.

"It is stated in the Fundamental Law of Education that administrative powers can't intervene with the contents of the education," Yoko Watanabe, one of the plaintiffs, told a news conference Thursday. "Abe and the LDP must be tried under the law."

Abe's office declined to comment on the issue, saying they were overwhelmed by media inquiries.

The textbook does not mention "comfort women," a euphemism for women, many of them Koreans, who were forced into sexual slavery for Imperial Japanese forces, and plays down the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.

Of the 11,000 junior high schools in Japan, approximately 40 public schools, including those in Suginami Ward and the city of Otawara in Tochigi Prefecture, are using the history text, according to the publisher, Fusosha Publishing Inc.

The Suginami and Otawara governments approved the textbook in August 2005, and schools began using it in April.

"I am very concerned with the future of the children because Suginami Ward continues to use the textbook, which has incorrect information," Eriko Maruhama, a 54-year-old housewife who lives in the ward, told reporters.

"Although the lawsuit may seem like a long shot, I think we needed to proceed with it."

Meanwhile, 275 people filed a similar lawsuit Thursday with the Matsuyama District Court in Ehime Prefecture.

In February, eight Suginami residents sued to have the textbook's approval canceled, claiming the selection process had been illegal because there were many irregularities, including a negative report from teachers in the ward that was tampered with. Their suit is still before the courts.



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