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OSAKA (Kyodo) In another suspected ethics breach in the Justice Ministry, a prosecutor apparently induced a mentally impaired man to confess, on tape, to an Osaka arson, judicial sources said Thursday. The man was held for 10 months until freed due to lack of evidence.

Last year, three prosecutors in the Osaka District Prosecutor’s Office were arrested and indicted for tampering with evidence related to an investigation into a postal discount scheme that was allegedly being abused by a senior health ministry bureaucrat. The bureaucrat was eventually acquitted.

In the latest Osaka case, the Sakai branch of the district public prosecutor’s office indicted the impaired man for a December 2009 arson at a residential building in Kaizuka, Osaka Prefecture, but dropped his case last November after deciding it could not support the credibility of his confession after holding him for more than 10 months.

According to the sources, a 30-minute DVD of the prosecutor’s interrogation of the 29-year-old man, whose case was supposed to be heard by a lay judge court, shows him yawning while the 41-year-old prosecutor reads out his confession. It also shows the prosecutor asking leading questions when the man was at a loss for words.

The prosecutor appears to pose questions that would be hard for a mentally impaired person to comprehend, and the man sometimes merely repeated the prosecutor’s words, according to the sources.

For example, at one stage the prosecutor asked: “Did you see the fire spreading?”

“No, I didn’t,” the man responded.

The prosecutor then said: “You saw it, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did,” the man responded.

The public prosecutor went on to ask the suspect how he did it.

“You could use a lighter or something else if you tried to set a fire. What did you use?” he asked.

“Lighter,” the man responded.

Tadafumi Oshima, deputy chief prosecutor at the Osaka District Prosecutor’s Office, said the interrogation may have been flawed, but not the indictment.

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