Saying Japan’s democracy is at stake, a citizens’ group is seeking a review of prosecutors’ decision last week not to indict any Finance Ministry bureaucrat in the Moritomo Gakuen land-deal scandal.

The group asked the Osaka prosecution inquest committee to consider mandatory indictments against those named in criminal complaints or to rule that the prosecutors’ decision not to indict was inappropriate.

According to the request, the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office on May 31 issued “a lax decision that exonerated those involved” in the sharp discount given school operator Moritomo Gakuen for state-owned land in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, as well as the subsequent falsification of official documents related to the sale.

The group, including Satoshi Daigo, a professor emeritus of financial affairs and accounting at the University of Tokyo, said it was stunned by the decision not to indict 38 Finance Ministry officials named in criminal complaints.

Opposition parties have said the discount for the land stemmed from the close ties between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, and the former director of Moritomo Gakuen. The prime minister has staked his political career on his argument that neither he nor his wife were involved in the transaction.

The prosecutors’ investigation into the officials was based on several criminal complaints about the possible destroying of evidence and breach of trust submitted by Daigo and others.

Among those who were absolved of any wrongdoing last week were Nobuhisa Sagawa, who was director-general of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Bureau when the documents were falsified, as well as Yoshito Minami, who headed the Kinki Local Finance Bureau when the land sale was approved.

Daigo’s group described the series of moves revolving around the sale of the state-owned land as a situation in which “the bureaucracy, the political sector and state” were used for personal purposes.

It added that if the matter was not taken up as a criminal case, then “democracy in Japan will fall to a new low.”

Some of the alterations in the ministry documents removed references to Akie Abe.

Regarding the possible destroying of evidence by Sagawa, the group said his false responses last year in the Diet were designed to bury any evidence of breach of trust on the part of employees at the Kinki Local Finance Bureau who handled the real estate deal.

Referring to its complaints of suspected breach of trust on the part of Minami, the group said free negotiations on prices are not allowed in the sale of state-owned assets. It also said the ministry’s reason for giving the sharp discount to Moritomo Gakuen was “unthinkable.”

Eleven citizens drawn by lottery will sit on the prosecution inquest committee to decide if last week’s decision not to indict was appropriate.

If the committee decides an indictment was called for or that the decision not to indict was inappropriate, the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office will have to reopen an investigation into the matter.