PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron revealed Wednesday that he repeatedly told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he had strong reservations about the treatment of former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn, questioning whether he was getting a fair hearing.
Speaking at a meeting with reporters, Macron said he told the prime minister many times that he felt the conditions of Ghosn’s detention and interrogation by Tokyo prosecutors were substandard from the point of view of protecting the rights of a suspect or defendant.
“I told Abe several times that the conditions of Carlos Ghosn’s detention and questioning did not appear to be satisfactory to me,” the president told reporters.
Ghosn was arrested in 2018 for alleged financial misconduct while in charge of Nissan. Facing trial, he fled from Japan by jumping bail in December, saying that he did so to escape the country’s “rigged” justice system. He characterized his decision to flee as a bid for “fair justice.”
In Tokyo on Thursday, lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, who had won Ghosn’s release in exchange for strict bail conditions, turned in his resignation as one of Ghosn’s defense lawyers at the Tokyo District Court.
Following Ghosn’s escape, the court has decided to separate his trial from that of former Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly, who has been charged with conspiring with the former chairman over the financial misconduct, according to sources.
Macron, during his visit to Japan in June last year, told reporters after meeting with Abe that it was not the president’s role to intervene publicly in individual judicial cases.
Macron also said at that time he would remain “vigilant” so that Ghosn’s rights as a defendant and presumption of innocence are respected. Ghosn holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationality.
The former auto tycoon’s monthslong detention following his initial arrest in November 2018 and his restricted access to lawyers and family members drew international criticism.
On Ghosn’s escape from Japan, where he was facing a trial that was due to start this spring, Macron declined to comment, saying France was not involved.
Ghosn said in a news conference last week in Beirut that the French government’s 2015 decision to increase its shareholding in Renault SA and to double its voting rights brought “bitterness” from Nissan and Japanese officials.
Macron, who was the economy minister at the time, told reporters that he “had always defended French interests.”
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