Japan to Review Documents in Abe Probe

Japan to Review Documents in Abe Probe

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's education minister said Friday he will launch a new investigation into documents that allegedly show Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pressured bureaucrats to give preferential treatment to a school run by a friend.

The Kake Educational Institution, run by Abe's friend, was seeking approval for a new veterinary school. Abe's wife, Akie, also served as honorary principal of a kindergarten operated by Kake.

Abe and other top officials have repeatedly questioned the authenticity of the documents, which allegedly indicate that Abe's office pressured government ministries to approve the school's application.

They also have rejected demands by opposition lawmakers for testimony in parliament by a retired senior education ministry official who recently acknowledged the existence of the documents and of political pressure.

"We accept the people's voice sincerely and will conduct an additional investigation" into the authenticity of the documents, education minister Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference. He said an earlier investigation in May found no evidence that the documents existed.

The scandal is the second alleging that Abe or people close to him sought to influence the opening of new schools. In an earlier incident, Abe's wife was alleged to have used her influence to arrange a favorable land deal for an ultra-nationalistic Osaka educational group that she was closely associated with.

Abe, a nationalist who took office in 2012 for a second term, has enjoyed solid support ratings despite scandals involving him and some Cabinet ministers. But Friday's reversal by the education minister reflects growing concerns in his own party and public outrage over the government's refusal to clarify whether bureaucrats bent rules to help his friend.

(KA)