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Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010

EDITORIAL

Former prosecutor indicted

The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office on Oct. 11 indicted Mr. Tsunehiko Maeda, a prosecutor with the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation squad, on suspicion of tampering with data on a floppy disk seized from a suspect in a case involving alleged abuse of the postage discount system for the disabled. It also dismissed him in disgrace.

In the case, Ms. Atsuko Muraki, a former welfare ministry bureau chief, was acquitted of a charge that she had instructed her subordinate Mr. Tsutomu Kamimura to issue a certificate to a certain group recognizing it as a benefactor for the disabled, and thus enabling it to use the discount. Mr. Maeda was charged with changing the final update time on the floppy disk — which was seized from Mr. Kamimura and contained the certificate text — from "12.20.06" a.m. June 1, 2004 to "9:10.56" p.m. June 8, 2004.

In addition to Mr. Maeda, the former chief and vice chief of the squad, Mr. Hiromichi Otsubo and Mr. Motoaki Saga — were arrested Oct. 1 on suspicion of instructing him to tell senior prosecution officials that he had "accidentally" changed the data even though the two men knew he had done it intentionally.

The supreme prosecutors office should expand the scope of its investigation to find out whether the supervisors of Mr. Otsubo and Mr. Saga at the district prosecutors office and officials at the Osaka High Public Prosecutors Office truly did not know of Mr. Maeda's alleged tampering of the data.

The office also should investigate the details of the circumstances surrounding the data alteration and make public the results of the investigation. A colleague of Mr. Maeda knew about the change in July 2009, but didn't report it to his supervisor until late January 2010. It is also reported that there was an opinion in the squad that Ms. Muraki was innocent.

To prevent misconduct by prosecutors, the Justice Ministry should mandate that investigators electronically record all oral statements of suspects and witnesses during interrogations. Prosecutors should also be legally required to disclose all the evidence they have to defense lawyers before the start of a trial.



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