• Jiji


Public prosecutors demanded a prison term of seven years on Thursday for a 90-year-old former senior Japanese government official over a high-profile fatal runaway car accident in Tokyo in 2019.

“The mistake in basic driving operations was gross negligence,” the prosecutors said during the trial at the Tokyo District Court, seeking the maximum prison term set for negligent driving resulting in death and injury.

In the accident, the car driven by Kozo Iizuka ran out of control in the busy Ikebukuro district of Tokyo’s Toshima Ward in April 2019, killing a woman, 31, and her 3-year-old daughter. Nine others were injured.

In its closing argument, the defense side claimed that the man is not guilty as the accident was caused by a vehicle defect. The court is slated to issue a ruling on Sept. 2.

The prosecutors said the accident occurred when the man mistakenly pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal, and that there were no mechanical problems with his car.

They said that the defendant’s excuse is groundless.

“The shock and grief of the victims’ family members is hard to describe, and the defendant’s repeated denials of the charges hurt their feelings further,” the prosecutors said.

Seven members of the victims’ family gave statements at the court.

“The accused cannot face up to his crime unless he serves a prison term,” said Takuya Matsunaga, 34, who lost his wife and daughter in the accident, seeking a severe prison sentence.

The defense side claimed that the defendant’s statement saying that he could see the gas pedal when the car ran out of control is trustworthy.

In his statement during the trial, Iizuka said he has no memory of wrongly pressing the gas pedal.

“As things turned out, I regret not quitting driving a little bit earlier,” he said.

According to the indictment and other sources, Iizuka kept pressing the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal, leading the car to travel at a speed of up to 96 kph. The vehicle later ran a red light and drove onto a crosswalk.

Iizuka once served as head of the now-defunct Agency of Industrial Science and Technology under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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