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Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Prosecution's questionable call
The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office on June 27 decided not to indict Mr. Masahiro Tashiro, a former prosecutor with the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office. He was accused by a citizens' group of falsifying a report on his interrogation of Mr. Tomohiro Ishikawa, a former secretary of former Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa and currently a Lower House member, in connection with alleged falsification of fund reports of Rikuzankai, Mr. Ozawa's political funds management body.
It also decided not to indict his six former superiors, including Mr. Tatsuya Sakuma, a former head of the squad. The decision only reinforces the impression that the highest prosecution authorities show leniency to public prosecutors, and as such will never help the authorities regain the public's trust.
Mr. Tashiro made the report after he questioned Mr. Ishikawa, who was out on bail, on May 17, 2010, after the Tokyo No. 5 Prosecution Inquest Committee — a citizens' 11-member panel — voted on April 27 that year for indicting Mr. Ozawa for the first time. The falsification came to light because Mr. Ishikawa secretly recorded the interrogation. But the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office decided that although the way Mr. Tashiro wrote the report was inappropriate, it cannot be determined that he did it by design. Thus the office decided not to indict him.
In the report, Mr. Ishikawa is quoted as saying that Mr. Tashiro had told him during an earlier interrogation (in January or February 2010) that if he (Mr. Ishikawa) told a lie to protect his boss, it would be betrayal to the people who elected him to the Lower House. Mr. Ishikawa is also quoted as saying that this statement by Mr. Tashiro had such a strong effect on him that he confessed (in the earlier interrogation) that he had reported the falsification of fund reports to Mr. Ozawa and got his approval. But Mr. Ishikawa did not make these statements during the interrogation on May 17, 2010.
The interrogation in question lasted about five hours. But a surprising fact surfaced — Mr. Tashiro did not take notes at all during it and then wrote the report relying on his memory. While this act in itself is unthinkable, the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office merely stated that the possibility cannot be ruled out that Mr. Tashiro mixed up this interrogation and the earlier interrogation.
The report by Mr. Tashiro was then submitted to the prosecution inquest committee, which voted on Sept. 14, 2010, for the second time for the indictment of Mr. Ozawa, thus leading to his indictment. Since the possibility cannot be ruled out that Mr. Tashiro's report influenced the committee's vote, the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office's decision is all the more questionable and only serves to further erode public trust in the office. A third-party committee must probe the case.