In Japan a trial revives criticism of a judicial system

In Japan, a trial revives criticism of a judicial system with recurring abuses

The conviction on Wednesday, December 27, of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and Prosecutor's Office for falsifying evidence to indict the directors of the Ohkawara Kakohki company leaves criticism of the excesses of the Japanese justice system, often referred to as “hostage justice.” , revive. The conservative daily Yomiuri Shimbun wrote an editorial calling on police and prosecutors to investigate “the causes” of this affair with “extremely serious consequences.”

Ohkawara Kakohki was suspected of selling spray-drying machines (a method of dehydration) in China that investigators claimed could be used for military purposes. However, Japan prohibits the sale of potentially arms-related equipment to China.

Prosecutors took three company executives into custody on March 10, 2020, including CEO Masaaki Okawara. On March 31, they filed charges against her and detained her. On May 26, the three men were taken into custody again, this time for selling machinery to South Korea, then under economic sanctions from Japan over a dispute over monument issues. Bail applications were rejected on the grounds that the suspects might destroy evidence. They were only able to benefit from this in February 2020. One of the three defendants, Shizuo Aijima, died of neglected stomach cancer while in custody. The affair brought Ohkawara Kakohki to the brink of bankruptcy.

“What I said has been changed.”

However, as the trial that began in July showed, the accusation was based solely on falsifying evidence and extracting confessions over the course of hundreds of interrogations. A police officer called to testify even suggested that the investigation was intended to serve the ambitions of some of his superiors.

At the start of the investigation in 2018, prosecutors contacted the Ministry of Economy (METI), which confirmed that there was nothing prohibiting the export of the machines in question because they could not be used for military purposes. The public prosecutor's office allegedly overlooked this fact and forced METI to cooperate with the public prosecutor's office. An investigator also pressured one of the three defendants to sign a written statement confirming the allegations. Although the police consulted experts, one of them told the court: “What I said has been changed.” »

Like others before them, Ohkawara Kakohki's leaders were victims of the excesses of the Japanese justice system, which deprives suspects of “the right to due process and fair trial,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) recalled in a report published in May. The emphasis is on obtaining confessions. Police custody lasts twenty-three days and can be extended indefinitely on other charges.

You still have 40% of this article left to read. The rest is reserved for subscribers.