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Prosecutors to Allow Access to Court Records on Prewar Coup Attempt

October 17, 1992

TOKYO (AP) _ After 56 years, researchers will finally be allowed to look at court records on an unsuccessful coup attempt in the 1930s that eventually led to military domination of Japanese politics.

An official in the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office said prosecutors had decided to accept a 1988 request from Hiroaki Kita, a researcher on modern Japanese political history, for access to the records.

In the so-called ″Feb. 26 incident″ in 1936, about 1,400 troops led by junior army officers seized control of central Tokyo. Three government officials were killed.

The troops also attacked the residence of then-Prime Minister Keisuke Okada, but he escaped death when rebels mistakenly killed his brother-in-law.

After the abortive coup ended three days later, 17 ranking officers and two right-wing theorists were sentenced to death by a secret tribunal and executed.

The prosecution records were made public in 1988, but the court records themselves, including transcripts, were considered more important in clarifying the coup attempt, which was aimed at establishing a military Cabinet. Then-Emperor Hirohito is reported to have intervened in order to help put down the insurrection.

An official of the prosecutor’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Friday that the office had needed time to consider the privacy and reputations of former officers identified in the court records.

″Some of those involved in the incident are still alive, but since more than a half century has passed, we concluded that the records should be offered for research purposes,″ the official said.

The prosecutor’s office has kept the court records since 1947, the official said.

News of the decision to allow access to the documents came one day after an army officer, in an article in a major Japanese magazine, called for a coup to clean up political corruption.

Shinsaku Yanai, a 45-year-old major in the Ground Self-Defense Forces, wrote in the Shukan Bunshun that the only options left were ″a coup d’etat or revolution″ to put an end to a series of recent political scandals.

The major was sharply rebuked by top government officials, and Defense Agency officials said they would take appropriate measures after studying the case.

In the latest political scandal, Shin Kanemaru, Japan’s most powerful politician, resigned from Parliament on Wednesday in response to widespread anger over what many perceived to be his lack of remorse for accepting $4 million in illegal donations from a mob-linked trucking company.

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