• Kyodo

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Lawyers for one of two Japanese researchers accused of stealing genetic material from a U.S. laboratory said Thursday they plan to interview staff of a Japanese science institute where the two formerly worked before full-fledged court deliberations begin. The plan was unveiled in a preparatory hearing for Hiroaki Serizawa in the federal district court in Akron, Ohio.

The lawyers said they will first study the contents of a report presented by the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, or Riken, in late July on the industrial spying allegations. They will then submit a petition to the court to interview Riken staff in Japan if they find the report includes evidence that could help their client.

After the hearing, the lawyers said they will also interview Takashi Okamoto, the other Japanese scientist indicted for espionage. Conducting such interviews is expected to take about three months, they said.

If the lawyers carry out investigative interviews in Japan, the scheduled Nov. 5 start of Serizawa’s trial may be delayed.

Federal prosecutors in Ohio indicted Okamoto and Serizawa in May on charges of stealing genetic materials on Alzheimer’s disease developed by the federally funded Cleveland Clinic.

After resigning from his research position at the Cleveland Clinic in July 1999, Okamoto was employed by Riken in Japan.

On July 31, Riken issued a statement denying organized involvement in the alleged spying. On the same day, Riken accepted a letter of resignation from Okamoto, which he tendered earlier in the month. He remains in Japan.