Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Taku Yamasaki was dealt an embarrassing blow by the Tokyo District Court on Monday when it ruled that an article saying he wasn’t “qualified to be a politician” was not defamatory.
“It was either a fact that the secretary-general and the woman (mentioned in the article) were lovers and she was a member of the Unification Church, or there were sufficient grounds to suggest such statements were facts,” Presiding Judge Akio Doi said as he threw out Yamasaki’s lawsuit seeking 50 million yen compensation and an apology from publisher Bungei Shunju.
Yamasaki and his lawyers are refusing to comment on the ruling.
Shukan Bunshun, a weekly magazine, ran an article in its April 4 edition last year exposing Yamasaki’s affair with the woman, a member of the “Moonies,” and saying the LDP stalwart, who has a strong influence on the Defense Agency, could have leaked sensitive defense information to her. The article went on to say Yamasaki “is not qualified to be a politician.”
Monday’s ruling pointed out that Yamasaki had visited the woman’s apartment on five occasions from January to March 1992 and added that the woman’s legal address was a property owned by the Unification Church. Doi added that references in the article accusing Yamasaki of treating lightly his position as an important member of the LDP were also acceptable because they maintained the general argument the story had set forth.
Shukan Bunshun Chief Editor Seigo Kimata hailed the ruling.
“I am satisfied by the court’s recognition of our side of the argument. I think Mr. Yamasaki should now think hard about his future,” Kimata said. “The prime minister (Junichiro Koizumi) has said he would await a court decision (before whether to discipline Yamasaki) so he has to take immediate action.”
A spokesman for Yamasaki’s office said they would fight on.
“It is an extremely regrettable outcome. We’ll study the ruling and consult our (legal) representatives before appealing the ruling.”
Yamasaki and Bungei Shunju are also embroiled over another Shukan Bunshun story about the politician and a diary written by one of his female associates.
Yamasaki filed a criminal complaint with the Metropolitan Police Department, accusing Bungei Shunju’s managing editor of criminal defamation by making up the story.
Bungei Shunju replied by countersuing Yamasaki, saying the politician’s complaints had made it appear as though its stories were fabricated. Bungei Shunju is seeking 12 million yen in compensation from the Diet member.