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Monday, Dec. 27, 2010


Top prosecutor to resign

Mr. Hiroshi Obayashi, head of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, is to resign Monday over allegations that a member of the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office's special investigation squad tampered with evidence and that the Osaka prosecutor's two bosses tried to shield the prosecutor from accusations.

The incident occurred in connection with the alleged fabrication of an official document by Ms. Atsuko Muraki, a former welfare ministry bureau chief, to help an organization receive a postage discount perk reserved for the disabled. Ms. Muraki was acquitted Sept. 10, and it has become evident that there was no evidence to support her indictment.

Mr. Obayashi, who was assigned to his current position in June, had nothing to do with the decision to indict Ms. Muraki. But he is to step down to take responsibility for the indictments of the elite investigation squad prosecutor and the two former bosses of that prosecutor.

Mr. Obayashi's successor, Mr. Haruo Kasama, must carry out drastic reform of public prosecutors offices and ensure that public prosecutors faithfully follow the basic principles in criminal investigation to regain people's trust.

A report that prosecution authorities issued Friday is insufficient. Authorities should make public the arguments on which officials at the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office and the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office based their decision to indict Ms. Muraki. They also should make public what instructions the supreme prosecution office made to the district prosecution office after the Osaka District Court on May 26 adopted only nine of 43 depositions presented by the prosecution — dismissing 15 depositions that were the core evidence against Ms. Muraki. They also should make public what replies the district office made. These should be the minimum steps to clarify the prosecution's responsibility.

To prevent false charges, the whole interrogation process should be electronically recorded and a law should be revised to nullify the qualification of public prosecutors who fail to disclose to defense lawyers all pieces of evidence, whether disadvantageous or advantageous to the accused, in pretrial sessions.

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