True prosecution reform

In the trial of former Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa, charged with conspiracy to falsify political fund reports, the Tokyo District Court said his testimony could not be trusted because it contained changes in time and other irregularities. (He was acquitted but faces an appellate trial.)

It is remarkable, however, that the court strongly criticized the prosecution’s investigation of Mr. Tomohiro Ishikawa, one of Mr. Ozawa’s former secretaries and now a Lower House member, and rejected as evidence many of the prosecution records of testimony.

It was found that the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office sent a falsified investigation record about Mr. Ishikawa to the Tokyo No. 5 prosecution inquest committee, an 11-member citizens’ judicial panel. Mr. Ozawa was indicted after the same panel voted for the second time to favor his indictment after the prosecution office decided twice not to indict him due to insufficient evidence.

Prosecution authorities are investigating Mr. Masahiro Tashiro, the public prosecutor who wrote the investigation record in question. But they reportedly plan not to indict him on the grounds that there was no evidence that he deliberately falsified it.

The public will not accept the explanation that a public prosecutor falsified an investigation record by mistake. A third-party committee should be set up to scrutinize the problems associated with the prosecution’s investigation of Mr. Ozawa’s secretaries.

Mr. Tashiro made the investigation record after he questioned Mr. Ishikawa, who had been released on bail, in May 2010. Earlier the citizens’ panel voted for the first time to indict Mr. Ozawa. The record purportedly shows why Mr. Ishikawa admitted after his arrest in January 2010 that he had told Mr. Ozawa that he was going to falsify a fund report. It quotes Mr. Ishikawa as saying that he made the admission because he was strongly influenced by Mr. Tashiro’s earlier remark that if he (Mr. Ishikawa) lied to investigators, it would mean betrayal of the people who had elected him to the Lower House. Mr. Ishikawa’s secret recording of the questioning proved that he made no such statement.

It is even suspected that by submitting the investigation record to the citizens’ panel, the prosecution tried to mislead the panel to favor Mr. Ozawa’s indictment. In fact, the record played an important role when the panel voted for the second time to the same effect. This happened despite the fact that the prosecution is supposed to maintain a position of not seeking the indictment of the person in question. A third-party committee’s scrutiny of the prosecution’s actions is all the more important.