To ring in the new year, TBS Radio’s “Session 22” asked several notable people on Jan. 4 about their predictions for 2018. Michiko Kameishi, a human rights lawyer, commented that she is looking forward to three criminal trials that turn on confessions extracted from suspects. Two of the cases are retrials of persons who have already been convicted and served their times in prison. In both, lawyers convinced courts to retry their clients because the convictions were based solely on confessions they later recanted and which they say were coerced under questionable circumstances.

Police and prosecutors rely so heavily on confessions in criminal cases that they don’t feel the need to go out and gather evidence, says Kameishi, an insight that led to a discussion of the Moritomo Gakuen elementary school scandal that embroiled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year. Yasunori Kagoike and his wife, Junko, were arrested in July on allegations of fraud in their dealings with government entities as they went through the process of building their new school in Osaka. They’ve been in jail ever since and denied contact with anyone except their lawyers.

Kameishi explained that the reason they are still being detained is that they refuse to talk, which is actually their right. The lawyer thinks that prosecutors have been trying to force confessions out of the couple and haven’t succeeded. The ostensible reason for denying them bail is that a judge has deemed they could tamper with evidence or witnesses while outside, so until the trial begins they are being kept away from anyone, including family members and each other. The real purpose of the bail denial, Kameishi says, is to put more pressure on the suspects to confess. If they do, then the trial can proceed right away, but as long as they don’t, their detention periods can be continually extended until it begins, and that could be months. It’s not unusual for suspects to spend a year or so under wraps. According to Kameishi, lawyers call this practice “hostage justice” (hitojichi shiho).