Tokyo police obtained an arrest warrant Thursday for a YouTuber and former lawmaker, currently residing overseas, on suspicion of making threatening and defamatory statements about celebrities in videos on his YouTube channel, investigative sources said.
The police will ask the Foreign Ministry to confiscate the passport of Yoshikazu Higashitani, also known as GaaSyy, and put him on an international wanted list through the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, the sources said. GaaSyy is known for exposing celebrity scandals on his YouTube videos.
"I will not go back to Japan. I will not return to a world that is uptight," he said via an online platform.
GaaSyy, 51, was stripped of his status as a lawmaker Wednesday by Japan's upper house of parliament for not attending any sessions since being elected last year. He has lived in the United Arab Emirates since before the upper house election in July 2022, when he won his seat.
GaaSyy was the first member of the Diet to be removed in more than seven decades.
The police have repeatedly asked GaaSyy to submit voluntarily to questioning over alleged defamation and extortion after receiving criminal complaints from celebrities in connection with YouTube videos he posted between February and August last year, the sources said.
But he refused repeated requests by the police to return to Japan and undergo questioning and continued posting threatening content, prompting them to seek an arrest warrant, according to the sources.
He is believed to have threatened three people, of whom he had obstructed one person's business, the sources said.
The police in January also raided the home of the owner of a company that manages advertising revenue earned from GaaSyy's videos.
GaaSyy's expulsion was the most serious reprimand out of the four levels under the national Diet law.
A member of the small, single-issue Seijikajoshi48 Party, GaaSyy was last week given a chance to apologize in a House of Councillors plenary session -- the third-strictest punishment available. But he did not do so in person, having previously sent an apology by video, which was not accepted.
As a result, GaaSyy's behavior was brought up again at the disciplinary committee for "disturbing the order" in parliament, and he was expelled.
At a press conference, Seijikajoshi48 party leader, Ayaka Otsu, said news of the arrest warrant for GaaSyy was "unfortunate."
A staff member removes the name plaque of Yoshikazu Higashitani, who goes by GaaSyy, from his desk in Japan's House of Councillors in Tokyo on March 15, 2023, after the upper house voted to expel the YouTuber from the Diet for not attending any parliamentary sessions since being elected in 2022, making him the first member of the Diet to be removed since 1951. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo