Sat, Oct 08, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Powerbroker Ozawa in hospital for kidney stone

AFP, TOKYO

Former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) leader Ichiro Ozawa was rushed to hospital with kidney stones overnight, his physician said yesterday, a day after the politician’s criminal trial over a funding scandal began.

In a fresh twist Ozawa, 69, will remain hospitalized for about a week for treatment, the doctor at the Nippon Medical School Hospital said.

“His pain has been significantly reduced. He is in a stable condition,” the doctor said of the influential Japanese political figure.

Ozawa on Thursday pleaded not guilty to charges that he violated Japan’s political funding law at the opening of his highly anticipated public trial.

The so-called “Shadow Shogun,” who influences the biggest faction in the ruling party and narrowly failed to oust former Japanese premier Naoto Kan in a leadership battle last year, slammed the trial as “an abuse of state power.”

Hours later he complained of feeling unwell and was taken to hospital by ambulance late at night. In 1991, Ozawa was hospitalized with heart disease.

The gravel-like stones can form in the kidney when particles of minerals crystallize. If they dislodge they can become painful obstructions. The veteran lawmaker is accused of conspiring with aides in not reporting ¥400 million (US$5.2 million) that he loaned to his funding body in 2004 to facilitate a land deal.

That body paid ¥350 million for the purchase and reported the deal in documents for a different year to make the funds appear to have come from bank loans and thereby avoid having to clarifying where they came from, according to the indictment.

Ozawa called for the trial to be halted, telling the court: “I can only speculate that the purpose was to terminate me politically and socially.”

Public interest in the case was fuelled after three of his aides were last week convicted on similar charges in a separate hearing and given suspended prison terms of one to three years.

Prosecutors initially refused to charge Ozawa because of a lack of evidence, but a panel of juries voted to override the decision and Ozawa was indicted in January.

Ozawa’s supporters say he has been unfairly targeted by opponents of his drive to weaken the overwhelming influence of bureaucrats in Japanese decision-making and bring politics back to the people.

The Mainstream media have long been critical of Ozawa’s strong political influence, which is based on his vast wealth and allegedly lucrative connections, giving him the status of backroom kingmaker in the DPJ.

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