Hironaka to guide Ozawa’s defense

Lawyer helped win acquittal for high-profile defendants Muraki, Miura, Abe, but not Suzuki

Kyodo News

Hotshot lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, who has won acquittals in a series of highly publicized cases, will lead the defense team of ruling party kingpin Ichiro Ozawa, who faces mandatory indictment over false financial reporting, sources said Wednesday.

The team of lawyers for Ozawa, a former Democratic Party of Japan president, is currently headed by Mamoru Norisada, former head of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutor’s Office. However, Hironaka will take charge of the team before or after Ozawa is indicted, the sources said.

Hironaka, 65, helped win acquittal for controversial high-profile defendants, including the late businessman Kazuyoshi Miura, who faced a murder charge over the shooting of his former wife in the early 1980s in Los Angeles, and the late former Teikyo University Vice President Takeshi Abe, who was charged over the death of an AIDS patient.

In a recent case that raised his profile even higher, Hironaka was a lead lawyer for Atsuko Muraki, 54, a former senior Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry official. Muraki was acquitted in September of ordering a subordinate to fabricate an official document to abuse a mail discount system for disabled people.

Hironaka also led the defense team for former House of Representatives lawmaker Muneo Suzuki, who will soon go to prison for bribery, and recently took part in a meeting of a DPJ parliamentary group seeking the complete videotaping of interrogations by investigative authorities to reduce the number of cases involving wrongful accusations.

The Tokyo District Court on Monday rejected a request by Ozawa to suspend judicial procedures in connection with his mandatory indictment over alleged involvement in accounting irregularities by his political fund management body.

Ozawa filed the suit Friday seeking the invalidation of the Sept. 14 decision by an independent judicial panel of citizens that he should face mandatory indictment, on the basis that the panel exceeded its competence in making the decision.