Plainclothes police officers surround a man who heckled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a campaign speech in Otsu on July 18.

OTSU--Police surrounded and restrained a man who was heckling Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from the back of a venue where Abe was giving a campaign speech here on July 18.

The incident in Shiga Prefecture's capital comes on the heels of a similar case on July 15 in Sapporo in which police ejected two citizens from a venue where Abe was delivering a speech after they heckled him.

On July 18, Abe, also president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, started a speech on a campaign truck in front of JR Otsukyo Station just after 5 p.m. The speech was to support an LDP candidate in the July 21 Upper House election.

Five plainclothes police officers then moved in on the heckler, who had started shouting before the start of Abe’s speech, and yanked him over to a fence in a corner of the venue.

The man continued to shout things such as “Abe should quit.” Though he tried to move away from the fence, he was stopped by the officers who had encircled him.

“We have not heard (about the protester being silenced),” the Shiga prefectural police public relations office told The Asahi Shimbun slightly before 7 p.m. that day.

In the July 15 incident in front of JR Sapporo Station, Hokkaido police grabbed the clothing and the bodies of two citizens and walked them several dozens of meters to the back of the crowd at an event where the prime minister was speaking.

Hokkaido police initially explained the officers' actions by saying that the hecklers might have obstructed free elections, a violation of the Public Offices Election Law.

On July 17, however, the police changed their explanation and said that the behavior of the police was a conventional law enforcement tactic necessary to prevent trouble among spectators.

Regarding the ejection of the two citizens in Sapporo, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a news conference on the morning of July 18, “I have been told that the Hokkaido police are still in the process of confirming facts.

“Either way, police activities should be conducted in a fair and impartial manner, while maintaining political neutrality,” he added.

Asked to express the government’s view on the incident, Nishimura only said, “Please ask the National Police Agency.”