In the trial of former Democratic Party of Japan leader Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, who is accused of violating the Political Funds Control Law, the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 17 rejected as evidence the prosecution’s record of certain oral statements made by his former secretary concerning Mr. Ozawa’s alleged involvement in a false entry on a financial report for his political funds management body Rikuzankai. This evidence had been considered key.

Because the court identified illegalities involved in the interrogation that raised serious questions over the trustworthiness of the evidence, prosecution authorities should strictly examine whether prosecutors in general are conducting their investigations in a lawful manner.

Mr. Ozawa is charged with conspiring with three of his secretaries to falsify entries in Rikuzankai’s financial reports in 2004 and 2005. The entries primarily concern ¥400 million Rikuzankai borrowed from Mr. Ozawa for the purchase of land in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward in October 2004. Although the prosecution twice previously decided not to indict him, he was charged on the strength of a vote by a Tokyo prosecution inquest committee made up of 11 citizens.

The court rejected the prosecution’s records of oral statements made by Mr. Tomohiro Ishikawa, a former secretary of Mr. Ozawa and now a Lower House member, that he had reported a false entry to Mr. Ozawa and that the latter approved the entry. It also rejected some similar records involving another secretary.

The court listened to a secret recording made by Mr. Ishikawa of an interrogation of him by the prosecutors office after he was released on bail. On the recording, a prosecutor told Mr. Ishikawa that if he maintains during his trial his statement that Mr. Ozawa approved a false entry in the financial report, Mr. Ozawa will not be indicted. The prosecutor took advantage of the fact that Mr. Ishikawa, who had strong loyalties to Mr. Ozawa, did not want him to be indicted. The court denounced the interrogation method as one that carries a “strong danger” of leading to a false statement.

There is no way to predict the final outcome of Mr. Ozawa’s trial. But the court’s ruling shows that the prosecution’s evidence that the citizens’ panel relied on in making its decision to charge Mr. Ozawa was likely unreliable. Serious discussions are required to address needed reforms in the current prosecution inquest system.

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