Ex-aides want to be off the hook like Ozawa

by Setsuko Kamiya

Staff Writer

Three former aides to Ichiro Ozawa on Wednesday urged the Tokyo High Court to reverse their guilty verdicts over the political money scandal involving the former Democratic Party of Japan president, saying they had no motive to conduct any wrongdoing.

The move came two days after the high court ruled in favor of Ozawa, who now heads the party Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Life First), upholding a not-guilty verdict by a lower court over his involvement in falsifying political funding reports.

Wednesday’s comments were made during the opening session of the aides’ appellate trial. They are Lower House member Tomohiro Ishikawa, Takanori Okubo and Mitsutomo Ikeda.

“Prosecutors fabricated this case to indict Ichiro Ozawa, and laid their eyes on Ishikawa, who was Ozawa’s secretary in 2004,” one of Ishikawa’s lawyers said.

The lawyer said Ishikawa should either be acquitted or his suspended prison sentence reduced to a fine because his act amounted only to misconduct.

The lawyers of all three said the prosecutors coerced confessions in line with their preconceived notions, which led to them being indicted. However, most of the new evidence offered by their lawyers was rejected Wednesday. The court will hold the next session Nov. 30.

The Tokyo District Court gave Ishikawa, 39, a two-year prison term, suspended for three years, while Okubo, 51, was given a three-year term suspended for five years. Ikeda, 35, was given a one-year prison term, suspended for three years. All three maintained their innocence.

In its ruling, the lower court said the aides’ defense was “unreasonable” and criticized them for denying their responsibility and failing to show regret.

The credibility of the interrogation records was questioned during their lower court trial after Ishikawa revealed a recording of his questioning that showed the prosecutors threatened him in order to force a confession and guided his responses with loaded questions.

The lower court criticized the prosecutors over their interrogation methods and rejected several statements as evidence.

The scandal revolved around allegations that Ozawa’s fund management body failed to report ¥400 million in income and roughly ¥352 million in expenses in connection with the purchase of land in Tokyo in 2004. The district court said that while the prosecutors did not submit enough evidence to clarify the nature of where the ¥400 million came from, the fact that neither Ishikawa nor Okubo could explain the money’s origins was enough to persuade the judges that the aides were trying to hide the source of the money.