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TOKYO, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday approved the submission of a contentious bill to parliament to criminalize the act of preparing for terrorism and other serious crimes, amid vast political and public opposition.

The government maintains that the bill is needed to protect against potential acts of terrorism that may occur during the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, with Abe's administration claiming that the latest version of the bill is less invasive than previous versions that were submitted and failed.

But opposition parties, lawyers and civic groups have voiced major concerns that the bill will lead to the government being allowed to invade the privacy of ordinary citizens and unjustly punish civic groups and labor unions.

Opposition parties on Tuesday vowed to not allow the bill to pass through parliament and into law stating that the bill was no different to three former iterations submitted to parliament that were subsequently scrapped.

They claimed that the bill will erode the integrity of the criminal code in Japan by allowing people to be charged in connections with crimes that have not been committed.

Opponents to the legislation also believe that the scope of the bill is not limited to terrorist groups and could be applied in an arbitrary manner by law enforcement personnel, despite the government's arguments to the contrary.

"This is no different from the conspiracy charge in the three previously scrapped bills," Kazunori Yamanoi, the Diet affairs chief of the main opposition Democratic Party, told a press briefing Tuesday.

The latest draft of the controversial bill states that the charge of conspiracy will be applied to organized crime groups with the punishments being levied to groups of two or more people.

Punishments will follow in cases where at least one member has secured funds for their activities or been involved in reconnaissance activities regarding a target location, the bill also states.

The contentious bill also proposes punishing crimes in connection with the expansion of illegal activities of organized crime groups and covers 277 possible offenses spanning systematic killings, drug crimes and hijacking.

Those caught plotting one of the crimes could face up to five years in prison if the crimes they are planning carry the death penalty. This prison sentence will also be applied if the crimes planned carry a jail sentence of 10 years or more, according to the bill.

The government's push for this version of the bill to become law is also, purportedly, to ratify the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which Japan signed in 2000, according to Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

Kishida noted Tuesday in a press briefing that the U.N. convention has been ratified by 187 signatories and that it is essential for Japan to also add its name ahead of hosting the Rugby World Cup here in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020.

He added that the legislation would serve to prevent terrorism and to bolster international cooperation in tackling organized crime.

Opposition parties and legal associations are adamant, however, that the bill is vague and open to abuse by law enforcement personnel.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations stated that the bill is ambiguous in its scope and its vagueness regarding the definition of terrorist organizations and crime groups could lead to the undue punishment of innocent civilians and groups.

Civic groups and individual protesters took to the streets on Tuesday despite the rain, with large groups gathering in Tokyo in front of the Diet building and outside the prime minister's office.

They held banners and shouted slogans claiming the bill will serve to squash any groups that stand opposed to the government and that it was undemocratic.

One protestor said she was scared the bill would "take away her civic rights." Another said the bill was a further example of Abe's "autocratic administration violating the Constitution."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government will try to better explain its intentions regarding the bill to the public.

But one legal advocate demonstrating Tuesday said that, as with the controversial war bills that were forced into law against public opinion and the Constitution, this was another example of Abe's administration abusing its majority in parliament to pass laws unilaterally.
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