February 23, 2019

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Carlos Ghosn and Japan’s ‘hostage justice’ system

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Things are trying difficult for Mr Ghosn

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s former chairman, has now spent three months in jail and faces many extra.

Japan’s former chief prosecutor was, till he unexpectedly resigned on Wednesday, his lawyer, and has declared Mr Ghosn to be a sufferer of “hostage justice”.

It is a time period few exterior Japan can have heard of till now, however what does it imply?

Living in Japan it is easy to change into complacent about crime – there may be so little of it. Japan’s extremely low crime charge is usually attributed to a homogeneous tradition, small revenue hole and full employment, but it surely’s additionally true to say that many individuals are simply afraid of being arrested.

I bought my first inkling of why in 2014 when an artist I knew, Megumi Igarashi, was arrested for distributing “obscene material”. Igarashi had made a digital scan of her personal genitals, and used that mannequin to make gadgets comparable to key fobs and a big yellow kayak.

Most individuals thought it hilarious and she was dubbed the “vagina artist”. But Tokyo prosecutors weren’t amused. They held her incommunicado for 3 weeks.

“Why on Earth would they hold her for three weeks over something so silly?” I requested a pal.

“Because they can,” she responded.

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Ms Igarashi’s case induced a sensation in Japan which has strict obscenity legal guidelines

In Britain, solely terror suspects might be held with out cost for 14 days – and that’s controversial. In Japan a shoplifter might be held for 23 days.

The stress to admit

“The Japanese criminal justice system is focused on interrogation. The aim is getting a confession,” explains Nobuo Gohara, who spent 23 years within the prosecutor’s workplace earlier than resigning. He now works in personal observe and campaigns for reform of Japan’s justice system.

“A suspect who admits to the crime is released from imprisonment,” Mr Gohara tells me. “But if a person refuses to admit to a crime, the prosecutor’s office will strongly oppose release until the suspect makes a confession.”

That is what occurred to Tomohiro Ishikawa. In 2010, the then sitting MP was arrested and accused of taking bribes. For three weeks he was held in a tiny unheated cell. Each day he was interrogated for 12 hours and not using a lawyer current. He finally admitted to a lesser offence and practically 10 years later he’s nonetheless bitter.

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Tomohiro Ishikawa was held three weeks in a tiny cell. He later admitted to a lesser offence.

“Japanese prosecutors are very persistent,” he informed me. “They write the plot out before they make the arrest.”

“Then they force you to confess according to their storyline. In my interrogation they didn’t write down what I had said. [Instead] they would show me what they had prepared beforehand then demand I sign it. Many times, I told them I would not sign, because it [the statement] was not what I had said.”

“Sometimes they shouted at me,” he stated. “At one point the deputy chief prosecutor started crying, asking me why was I lying.”

This stress to admit is much more worrying provided that 89% of prison convictions in Japan are based mostly partly or wholly on confessions.

There are quite a few examples of individuals spending years in jail for crimes they did not commit or the place critical doubts have emerged due to apparently “unsafe” confessions.

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Iwao Hakamada continues to be preventing to clear his identify

A former skilled boxer named Iwao Hakamada was sentenced to demise for homicide in 1968. His conviction was based mostly on a confession he made underneath extended interrogation and later withdrew.

In 2014, after 46 years on demise row, Mr Hakamada was launched as a result of his sentence was thought of unsafe and there was no proof to help the confession. At 82, he’s nonetheless preventing to clear his identify as he awaits a potential retrial.

The energy of prosecutors

According to Mr Gohara, the basis of the issue is the large energy of prosecutors.

“Under Japanese law, the prosecutor’s office has the exclusive right to indict. They also have the right to drop charges. This means that the prosecutor’s office is very powerful in the Japanese criminal justice system. On top of that in most cases, the courts follow the prosecutor’s decisions.”

In a current editorial within the Japan Times, Doshisha University regulation professor Colin Jones described the extraordinary place senior prosecutors maintain:

“While the top official at the Justice Ministry is ostensibly the administrative vice minister, in reality he is inferior both in terms of seniority and pay grade to the prosecutor general and several other top prosecutors and, unlike most other senior bureaucrats, their uppermost ranks are appointed through a process that involves attestation by the Emperor.”

This is the system the accused, like Carlos Ghosn, discover themselves up in opposition to, the place should you do not confess you’ll be held longer and extra critical costs will most likely be laid in opposition to you. If prosecutors do file costs your possibilities of being discovered responsible stand at 99%.

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The former tycoon says he’s being handled as responsible earlier than he can show his innocence

“Officially there is presumption of innocence” says Mr Gohara. “But even if the suspect is not guilty, there is an advantage for them to admit to the crime. This is the most evil effect of Japan’s hostage justice system.”

After the primary 23 days of detention the ordeal just isn’t essentially over. Prosecutors are permitted to re-arrest a suspect on a barely totally different accusation, with approval from the courts. The clock is then reset and one other 20 days of interrogation start.

This is what occurred to Carlos Ghosn, twice. In all he was held in interrogation for 53 days earlier than being formally indicted.

No bail for Ghosn

In many international locations, formal indictment could be the set off for a suspect to be launched on bail. But once more, not in Japan – as Carlos Ghosn has discovered.

In a current interview with the French information company AFP, Mr Ghosn stated the refusal of the Tokyo courtroom to grant him bail would “not be normal in any other democracy”. He accused the courtroom of “punishing me before finding me guilty”.

Mr Ghosn has now been allowed to fulfill with members of the family – for 15 minutes a day, by means of a glass window.

Contrast his remedy with one other current high-profile arrest, this time in Canada. On 1 December final yr, Chinese businesswoman Meng Wanzhou was arrested at Vancouver airport. Ms Meng is the chief monetary officer of Chinese telecom big Huawei. She is needed within the United States, accused of conspiring to breach worldwide sanctions in opposition to Iran.

Ten days after her arrest, on 11 December, Ms Meng was launched on bail of 10 million Canadian {dollars}. She is now staying in certainly one of her two Vancouver houses, and is obliged to put on an digital ankle tag.

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Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou merely has to listen to an digital ankle tag

Japanese prosecutors level out there isn’t a authorized provision for holding suspects underneath home arrest or compelling them to put on an digital tag. But former detainee Tomohiro Ishikawa says he doesn’t imagine the courts’ refusal to grant bail is as a result of it fears Mr Ghosn will flee.

“I think it would be very hard for someone like Mr Ghosn to hide. If he did (flee) his reputation would be destroyed. I think they are keeping him to harass him. They want his confession. They want him to admit he is guilty.”

Defenders of Japan’s system deny that confessions are behind the 99.9% conviction charge. They say it’s as a result of Japanese prosecutors indict at a a lot decrease charge than within the US. In different phrases, they solely indict when they’re certain they will win. In 2015, the prosecution charge was 33.4%, official figures present.

The gatekeepers of justice

But Carlos Ghosn’s case raises questions. Several attorneys have informed me the case in opposition to him appears weak. In an editorial within the Nikkei newspaper, company lawyer Stephen Givens describes the case in opposition to him as “thin soup”.

“By any objective measure, the misconduct alleged was less serious than the corporate misfeasance that is routinely overlooked in Japan,” he writes. “Nothing we know that [Mr] Ghosn allegedly did smells like a serious crime deserving prison.”

So why is the particular investigation unit of the Tokyo prosecutor’s workplace pursuing this case so onerous? Mr Ishikawa believes Mr Ghosn’s actual crime, within the eyes of Japan’s prosecutorial elite, is greed. He was the primary CEO in Japan to earn tens of millions of {dollars} a yr, and that modified Japanese company tradition.

“The Tokyo prosecutor’s office… is driven by their belief that they are the gatekeepers of justice. In an era of economic inequality, they want to make their name as the ones who nailed the rich.”

As Mr Ghosn sits in his detention cell planning his technique, he should know there may be yet one more sting within the tail of Japan’s justice system – there isn’t a double jeopardy.

If he beats the chances and is discovered harmless of the fees in opposition to him, the prosecutor’s workplace can enchantment to the excessive courtroom to have that verdict overturned. It is, say critics, another reason so many Japanese prison suspects confess.

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