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Having fled Japan while awaiting trial for alleged financial wrongdoing, former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has probably become the most famous foreign national ever arrested in the country. For a while after his initial detention in November 2018, the media discussed Japan’s so-called hostage justice system, which allows prosecutors to compel courts to hold suspects for indefinite periods prior to and during trials. With Ghosn’s escape, this discussion is again in the news, although its focus is misleading in that it gives the impression Ghosn was subjected to harsh legal procedures because he is not Japanese. These legal procedures apply to Japanese defendants as well. 

A Jan. 8 Tokyo Shimbun feature compares Ghosn’s case to those of foreign nationals who have run afoul of immigration control. Released on bail, Ghosn was able to exploit the relatively loose border security protocols for people of extraordinary means. The vast majority of foreign nationals in Japan have to deal with much stricter security. And, as one woman who works with immigration detainees explained, Ghosn could come up with the huge amount of money he needed for bail, while some immigration detainees spend years in confinement because they can’t raise the deposit required for provisional release.

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