Japanese PM accused of donation towards nationalistic school
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe donated one million yen (£7,200) through his wife for a school run by an ultra-nationalist education group, MPs in Tokyo have heard.
The nationalist group's leader also suggested in parliament that a land-buying scandal involving the school had "political influence" behind it.
Japanese first lady Akie Abe had been honorary principal of the elementary school for several months until resigning two weeks after the scandal erupted in early February.
In his sworn testimony in parliament, Yasunori Kagoike, head of the Moritomo Gakuen group, said Akie Abe handed him the cash in an envelope on behalf of her husband during her September 2015 visit to Mr Kagoike's kindergarten in Osaka.
Mr Abe has denied such a donation took place, but it would have been legal under Japanese law because Osaka is not in Mr Abe's own electoral constituency, which is in Yamaguchi in southern Japan.
However, Mr Abe and his wife's ties to Mr Kagoike have raised questions due to his extreme views on history and derogatory expressions about Chinese and Korean people, while the land-buying scandal involving the school has eroded Mr Abe's support in opinion polls.
Mr Kagoike's school is known for a curriculum which resembles that of pre-Second World War militaristic Japan. He is also affiliated with the powerful political lobby Nippon Kaigi, which is believed to be behind Mr Abe's comeback in 2012 and has become influential in pushing Mr Abe's ultra-conservative platform.
Mr Abe had spoken fondly about Mr Kagoike's education policies but has distanced himself from the man, criticising him for being "too persistent".
Mr Kagoike said he is revealing the truth about Mr Abe, who he thought was supportive before brushing him off once the scandal emerged.
He said the Abes have kept close ties to him , with Akie exchanging dozens of text messages with his wife despite the scandal.
Mr Abe has denied any influence in the sale last year of state property to Mr Kagoike at 134 million yen (£965,000), one-seventh of its appraised price.
However, Mr Kagoike told parliament he believed there was "political influence" over his land purchase and a plan to open an elementary school.
"I believe there was political influence one way or the other at every occasion and place (during approval process)," Mr Kagoike said.
The school project advanced rapidly through the licensing process but has fallen apart, Mr Kagoike said, complaining that he is seen as the bad guy, as if he had been framed.
He urged MPs to question Akie, her assistant and finance ministry bureaucrats to clarify their responsibility in the land purchase.
Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga has reiterated his and Mr Abe's denial over the alleged donation or any other political influence over Moritomo Gakuen's licensing for its elementary school, where construction work is almost complete.