The two Americans accused of helping former Nissan Motor Co. chairman Carlos Ghosn escape prosecution in Tokyo failed in their latest effort to avoid criminal charges in Japan.
After temporarily delaying the extradition, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani ruled Thursday that the former Army Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son Peter can now be extradited, rejecting their argument that they would be tortured by the Japanese government.
But its unlikely they’ll be sent to Japan anytime soon to face charges related to Ghosn’s escape in late 2019. Within minutes of the ruling, lawyers for the Taylors filed a notice of appeal in federal court, signaling that they plan to continue to fight the extradition request in the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
The appeal is poised to extend the long-running legal battle over the Taylors’ extradition request. A U.S. magistrate in Boston approved Japan’s request in early September, and the State Department gave its formal authorization about two months later.
Talwani issued the initial delay after the Taylors’ legal team warned that the U.S. could be preparing to hand their clients over to the Japanese government within hours of the State Department’s authorization in October. In court, the defense cited reports that Japanese prisoners had been "interrogated day and night” without lawyers present and kept in solitary confinement in tiny cells. They cast the Taylors’ impending extradition as a human rights issue, comparing Japan’s criminal justice system to "that of an authoritarian regime.”
At a hearing on Nov. 5, Talwani asked for documentation showing that the State Department had considered the possibility that the Taylors could be tortured. Less than a week later, prosecutors filed the document, signed by the deputy secretary of state, though the Taylors’ lawyers argued that it didn’t meet the legal requirements for protecting Americans from torture.
The Taylors’ arguments in court echoed criticisms of Japan’s criminal justice system that Ghosn has made repeatedly since he was arrested on charges of financial misconduct. He fled Japan with the help of the Taylors while he was out on bail and awaiting trial, prosecutors say. He was concealed in a box for musical equipment and smuggled onto a plane. He remains a fugitive in Lebanon.
Michael Taylor gave a detailed interview to Vanity Fair describing how he planned the operation. But after the Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts, they argued in federal court that helping someone jump bail isn’t a crime in Japan.
In September, however, U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell in Boston approved the extradition request, ruling that it wasn’t the role of an American court to parse the nuances of a foreign penal code.
"The prevailing view is that the extradition court should defer to the foreign country’s interpretation of its own laws,” Cabell said.
The Taylors deployed lobbyists in Washington to urge the State Department and the White House not to move forward with the extradition, highlighting Michael Taylor’s service as a Green Beret and his career rescuing kidnapped children in the Middle East. But the campaign was always a long shot, and the State Department approved the extradition request in October.
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