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Japan approves anti-terrorist conspiracy bill

Japan approves anti-terrorist conspiracy bill

The upper house of the Japanese parliament passed a controversial bill early on Thursday that authorizes measures aimed at preventing terror plots in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The government defended the "anti-conspiracy" bill as a tool to prevent terrorism, especially ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and to allow Japan to ratify the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime adopted in the year 2000.

But critics say it's an abuse of power and an unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression.

Officials in Tokyo insist the law is needed to ratify a 2000 United Nations treaty targeting global organised crime, and to improve Japan's anti-terrorism measures as it prepares to host the rugby world cup in 2019 and the Olympics the following year.

Terrorism "won't disappear because of this law", said 29-year-old demonstrator Yohei Sakano outside parliament.

A sizeable crowd protested outside parliament Wednesday.

"We will uphold the law in an appropriate and effective way to protect people's lives", Abe told reporters after the legislation passed.

"It's only three years until the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and so I'd like to ratify the treaty on organised crime as soon as possible so we can firmly cooperate with global society to prevent terrorism", Abe told reporters.

Mr Abe's Liberal Democrats (LDP) and like-minded parties control two-thirds of both houses, however, meaning the bill easily passed, by 165 votes for with 70 against.

The new law criminalizes conspiracy to commit terrorism and other serious crimes.

The U.N. special rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, sent an open letter to Abe in May raising concerns over the bill.

The latest bill reduced the number of targeted crimes to over 270 offences and narrowed the definition of terrorist and criminal organisations. Numerous 277 crimes cited in the legislation appear unrelated to terrorism or organised crime: among the offenses subject to punishment is mushroom picking in conservation forests, sit-in protests and poaching seafood.

Critics argued, however, that the current law still gives police and investigators too much leeway.

Japan's justice minister was even mocked by opponents of the law when he conceded that it could hypothetically target mushroom hunting - if that were used to fund terrorism.

The legislative win paves the way for Abe to push ahead with his long-held ambition to revise the pacifist constitution that has defined Japan's security policy since the second world war.

Opposition Democratic Party leader Renho, who goes by one name, in a statement blasted the ruling party tactics and termed the law "brutal" legislation that violated freedom of thought.