TOKYO/NEW YORK - The wife of former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn has written a letter to Human Rights Watch, a global advocacy group, criticizing her husband’s long detention and Japan’s criminal justice system as unfair and harsh.
“My husband’s is a case study in the realities of this draconian system,” Carole Ghosn wrote in a nine-page letter Monday to the Tokyo branch of the organization.
Carlos Ghosn was arrested Nov. 19 and has been charged with falsifying financial reporting in underreporting his income and with breach of trust in having Nissan Motor Co. shoulder his personal investment losses and make payments to a Saudi businessman.
Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades and rescued the automaker from near bankruptcy, asserted his innocence in the Tokyo District Court last week. It was his first public appearance since his arrest.
Carole Ghosn’s letter describes how prosecutors interrogate prisoners without a lawyer present in an apparent effort to get a confession — conditions that are routine for suspects in Japan. The system has come under fire from international human rights groups, as her letter notes.
Confined to an unheated cell, her husband has lost almost 3 kg in two weeks, with meals of mainly rice and barley, she wrote. He is denied his medication, given 30 minutes to exercise daily and is allowed to bathe two or three times a week, she said.
Prosecutors often try to extract confessions from prisoners in detention that could last months, Carole Ghosn claimed in the letter.
“For hours each day, the prosecutors interrogate him, browbeat him, lecture him and berate him, outside the presence of his attorneys, in an effort to extract a confession,” she said.
“No human being should be detained under conditions so harsh that their only plausible purpose is to coerce a confession,” said the letter, which cited cases in which people were later found innocent but had been detained for months.
Shin Kukimoto, deputy prosecutor in the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office, told reporters last week that prosecutors are confident they have a case. Ghosn’s lawyers have complained about the prolonged detention, but their appeals have been rejected. Prosecutors say Ghosn is a flight risk and he may tamper with evidence. No trial date has been set.
Carole Ghosn’s letter defended her husband’s character and his record in the auto industry.
“My husband is well-known as a person of unimpeachable honor, honesty and integrity,” she said in her letter.
Last week, she issued a shorter statement expressing worries about her husband’s health when he had a fever. He has since recovered. Ghosn’s family has not been able to meet with him, and so far only lawyers and embassy officials have been allowed visits.
The government has denied requests to end his detention. His lawyers have said it would likely take more than six months for his case to come to trial.
The Foreign Ministry said Ghosn’s rights are assured under the country’s laws.
“He is treated under the appropriate procedure, assuring fundamental human rights of individuals and undergoing strict judicial examination in (accordance) with relevant domestic laws of Japan,” ministry spokeswoman Natsuko Sakata said in an email.