Indicted prosecutors freed on bail

Osaka office duo deny covering up subordinate's evidence-tampering

OSAKA (Kyodo) Two prosecutors indicted over the coverup of alleged evidence-tampering by a subordinate in a high-profile criminal case were released on bail Saturday about four months after their arrests, and continued to deny the charges.

Hiromichi Otsubo, a 57-year-old former head of a special investigative squad at the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office, and Motoaki Saga, a 50-year-old former deputy head of the squad, posted bonds of ¥15 million each.

They were released after the Osaka District Court decided Friday to grant them bail and rejected an appeal Saturday by prosecutors who wanted them kept in detention.

Both men deny the charges that they ordered Tsunehiko Maeda, the 43-year-old disgraced former prosecutor slated to stand trial from March in the evidence-tampering case, to describe the alleged act as a mistake and subsequently lied to their superiors about it.

At a news conference in Osaka after their release, both apologized to Atsuko Muraki, a senior welfare ministry official who was acquitted last September of involvement in a postal discount system abuse case in a trial following investigations led by Maeda, while again denying the charges.

“It is not a fact that I prevented the arrest of defendant Maeda,” Saga said, adding, “I have provided (to investigators) my accounts according to my memory since the stage of voluntary questioning” before his arrest.

Otsubo said: “It is disappointing that I was arrested in this way by the prosecutors. It is only natural that I put up a fight for the sake of my honor.”

Pretrial arrangements to sort out the points of argument in their case are currently under way at the district court.

Otsubo and Saga were arrested Oct. 1 and indicted Oct. 21. Their lawyers filed for bail the following day, but the court rejected the request on the grounds that the defendants could destroy evidence.

The first session of Maeda’s trial will begin March 14.