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Ghosn Lawyer Takashi Takano on Japan’s Legal Injustice

SNA (Tokyo) — Carlos Ghosn defense lawyer Takashi Takano has written a blog post in Japanese language, dated January 4, expressing his outrage at the prosecution of his client Carlos Ghosn. This following is a full translation into English:

What He Saw

My client Carlos Ghosn left Japan on December 29, 2019, ignoring bail conditions. According to the Washington Post on the 30th of the same month, he issued the following statement:

“I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied, in flagrant disregard of Japan’s legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold. I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week.”

This is not the first time he has given voice to such criticism of Japan’s judicial system. From the time he was detained at the Tokyo Detention House, he continued to question the Japanese system. He always asked questions with a much more sense than even Japanese legal trainees.

“Can we expect a fair trial?”

He asked this same question many times. In each case, I explained Japanese practices based on my own experience. I also talked about the gap between the Constitution and the text of the law and the realities.

I told him, “Unfortunately, criminal defendants cannot expect fair trial in this country. Judges are not independent. They are part of the bureaucracy. However, many Japanese are unaware of this. You have been unaware too. You’ve worked as a CEO of a Japanese giant for twenty years and you didn’t know anything about the realities of Japanese justice.”

“I never even thought about it,” he answered.

“If you were arrested, did you expect to be released on bail immediately?”

“Of course I did.”

“That’s the norm in Britain, the United States, and Europe. Terrorists can be detained for twenty days. But this country is different: Terrorists, thieves, politicians, and charismatic business executives are all detained for 23 days if arrested. And they continue to be interrogated five or six hours a day, sometimes overnight, without the presence of a lawyer. If they do not confess their sins, they can be detained endlessly. Everyone believes that Japan is a civilized country with guaranteed human rights.”

“So I can’t expect a fair trial?”

“You cannot expect it. But in this case there is a strong possibility of acquittal. In all of the cases that I have ever dealt with, there is the thinnest evidence of guilt that I have ever seen. It is clear that the prosecutors have been forced to pursue this prosecution. We have won many times more acquittals than other lawyers. [Junichiro] Hironaka and [Hiroshi] Kawazu have gained acquittals in other white collar crime cases. Please trust us. We’ll show you the results.”

I honestly conveyed what I was thinking, and he seemed convinced.

However, his questions and anxiety seemed to intensify as the process proceeded. A prosecution that did not proceed at all, deleting part of the evidence and imposing detailed restrictions on the method of disclosure, prohibiting lawyers from using evidence for unintended purposes, engaging in the unlimited use of leaks to the media, failing to take the lawyer’s detailed schedule seriously, trying to delay “motions to dismiss” and other hearings, indefinite trial schedules, detectives who harassed him, and more—he asked me about these things with a frustrated look. However, the frequency of his questions gradually decreased.

Above all, he felt desperate about his bail conditions, which clearly violate the International Covenant on Human Rights in their ban on contact with his wife Carole. But these would not be lifted no matter how much he tried.

“Isn’t this a punishment? When can we have a normal family life?”

I could not answer this legitimate question properly. I could only say, “I will do my best.”

When he learned of the judgment that he couldn’t even speak with Carole for an hour over Zoom at the lawyer’s office with a lawyer present, he simply said “okay” without any energy. He didn’t even look angry.

That was early December.

In the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I attended his hour-long video meeting with his wife, which Judge Hajime Shimada finally recognized for the first time in a month. The two continued to talk about their children, their siblings, other relatives and friends, and their acquaintances. The topics weren’t exhausted. As he approached the one hour limit, he said to his laptop screen: “Our relationship cannot be replaced even by children or friends. You are irreplaceable. I love you, Habibi.”

At that moment I had never felt such despair about the Japanese judicial system. My feelings were close to murderous.

“Carlos, there is truly no excuse for this. The Japanese system is truly embarrassing. I will do my best to improve this situation as soon as possible.”

He did not reply. He just confirmed his next appointment with a secretary, as if I wasn’t there.

A week later, on the morning of New Year’s Eve, I learned in the news that he had escaped to Lebanon. At first, I felt intensely angry about it. I felt betrayed. But when I recalled how he had been treated by this country’s judiciary, my anger moved in a different direction. As a matter of fact, I haven’t been able to sort out this matter inside of me yet. The only thing I can say is that considering the judiciary and its surrounding environment that he has witnessed in the past year or so, I cannot entirely accept the view of those who call his flight out of the country an “outrage,” a “betrayal,” and a “crime.” Very few defendants can do the same thing that he did. But it’s not hard to imagine that if someone with the same financial resources, connections, and power of action as he has were to endure the same experience, they would try the same thing, or at least would think about it.

It is, of course, a self-negating idea for someone like me who was raised within this country’s criminal justice system. It is a lonely and disappointing conclusion. There should be a different conclusion.

Certainly I have been betrayed. But it was not Carlos Ghosn that betrayed me.

Note: This is my personal opinion, not the opinion of his defense team as a whole.

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