3 Members of Japan’s Tsubasa no To Political Group Arrested; Police Allege Disruptions to Campaign Speeches

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Atsuhiko Kurokawa, left, and Ryosuke Nemoto, arrested on suspicion of violating the Public Offices Election Law, are sent to the Metropolitan Police Department on Friday.

Three members of the Tsubasa no To political group were arrested on Friday for allegedly disrupting campaign speeches during a House of Representatives by-election that was held in Tokyo Constituency No. 15 in April.

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested the group’s chief, Atsuhiko Kurokawa, 45; its candidate in the by-election, Ryosuke Nemoto, 29; and its campaign division head, Hayato Sugita, 39.

The police have received complaints from several political camps and will investigate a string of alleged obstructive behavior by the group.

It is highly unusual for a former candidate to be charged with obstructing the speech of another group in an election.

According to an MPD announcement, the three are accused of obstructing a free election by screaming over a loudspeaker and honking a car horn during stump speeches by independent candidate Hirotada Ototake, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and others in front of JR Kameido Station roughly between 11 a.m. and 11:50 a.m. on April 16 ― when the start of the by-election was officially announced ― and making it harder for the audience to listen to the speeches.

On April 18, police warned the three that their actions against Ototake’s campaign could violate the Public Offices Election Law, but they continued to obstruct other campaigns by shouting at their speech venues or in front of their offices, and by chasing around other candidates’ campaign cars.

Tsubasa no To insisted that what the group was doing was “within the freedom of expression, election and political activities recognized by the law.” After the by-election, however, the MPD examined the illegality of their behavior and on Monday raided the group’s head office in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, Kurokawa’s home and the group’s other office on suspicion of violating the law. It then examined computers and smartphones it had seized.

After the police search, Kurokawa said, “We will continue our activities even if it looks like we’ll be arrested.”

The MPD apparently viewed the group’s acts as going beyond its right of freedom of expression and speech.

The group posted its activities on social media and video-sharing websites during the campaign, and the MPD has set up a special investigative headquarters to examine the details and objectives of the group’s activities.