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Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011

Ozawa aide grilling tape, done on sly, aired in trial

Staff writer

The Tokyo District Court heard excerpts Friday of an interrogation secretly recorded by a former aide to Democratic Party of Japan power broker Ichiro Ozawa at his trial that seemed to show a prosecutor using loaded questions and scripting a grilling record that ran counter to what the ex-aide meant.

Ozawa is on trial for his alleged involvement in conspiring with his aides to make false entries in the financial report of his political fund management body Rikuzankai in 2004, 2005 and 2007. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The statements made by three of Ozawa's former aides during their interrogations, including the one taped by lawmaker Tomohiro Ishikawa, are considered key evidence to determine if Ozawa conspired with them in making false entries in the Rikuzankai fund records. The ex-aides have been convicted.

The recording may determine whether the judges accept or reject the statements, legal observers say.

At Ozawa's second trial session Friday, the court heard of about 20 minutes of the interrogation of Ishikawa, a Lower House lawmaker and ex-Ozawa secretary. Ishikawa had secretly taped a five-hour voluntary interrogation after his release from custody in May 2010.

Because the integrated-circuit recorder was hidden in his bag, the conversation between Ishikawa and the prosecutor were not very clear, except that the two apparently were not hostile toward each other.

In an excerpt where Ishikawa asks his interrogator, Masahiro Tashiro, about revising his statement regarding when he talked to Ozawa, the prosecutor was heard urging the accused to stick with what was stated, and the latter reluctantly agreed.

In another excerpt concerning a conversation Ishikawa allegedly had with Ozawa, Tashiro was heard scripting a first-person account of Ishikawa's confession: "I had reported and consulted with Ozawa and received his approval (about the contents of Rikuzankai's political funds statement), but there were no such facts that Ozawa had actively instructed me."

After the prosecutor read the script, Ishikawa was heard asking that it be amended because he had spent little time with the DPJ don. "Can you please add that I only had about three minutes with Ozawa?" Ishikawa said.

But Tashiro replied: "But you don't have any proof of that, do you? OK, so let's say, 'I reported to Ozawa . . . in a very short time.' "

The transcript of the recording was submitted to the court as evidence.

The court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors have played the recording as evidence to establish that the interrogation statements were made in a legitimate manner.

But after the trial session Friday, Ozawa's defense team said the recordings actually helped to show that Ishikawa's statement cannot be trusted as it was obvious the prosecutor used loaded questions and pressured him during the interrogation.

In a separate trial of Ishikawa and the two other Ozawa aides, the same recording led the court to reject some of the statements as evidence. But even without those statements, the three in late September were convicted and given suspended sentences, which they have all appealed.

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The Japan Times

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