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Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011

Jailed prosecutor: Tape everything


Staff writer

A disgraced Osaka prosecutor convicted of evidence-tampering called on his former colleagues Friday to videotape and disclose every stage of interrogations to restore the public's trust, which his own actions badly shook.

Tsunehiko Maeda, a former member of the elite investigative team at the Osaka Public Prosecutor's Office, was in April found guilty of tampering with evidence during a high-profile case involving a senior welfare ministry official and sentenced to 1½ years in prison.

Maeda made the remarks at the Tokyo District Court, where he was called to testify in the ongoing trial of Democratic Party of Japan heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa over alleged false reporting of political funds.

Maeda's comments are all the more remarkable as the most vocal calls to videotape the interrogation process have come from defense lawyers looking to protect the rights of their clients, who are currently grilled behind closed doors, rather than prosecutors.

Due to criticism over wrongful convictions that were made based on coerced confessions, prosecutors have only reluctantly started videotaping interrogations in full, and in a very limited number of cases.

Maeda called for interrogations to be videotaped after one of Ozawa's lawyers questioned the credibility of interrogation records Maeda had compiled after interviewing Takanori Okubo, one of the DPJ bigwig's aides implicated in the funds scandal.

Maeda insisted he recorded Okubo's statement accurately and honestly, despite his conviction over evidence-tampering, but said he is unable to prove that everything was done by the book because the interrogation was not videotaped or tape-recorded.

"Interrogations should be fully recorded," Maeda said, adding that had Okubo's statement been recorded, then his claim in testimony that the disgraced prosecutor forced him to make a false confession would be proven baseless.

"Prosecutors should solely rely on videotapes," he said.

Maeda claimed video recordings also would help prosecutors regain the public's trust.

Okubo previously testified at Ozawa's trial that Maeda had forced him to admit that another former aide, Tomohiro Ishikawa, had consulted with him about making an inaccurate entry to the fund reports of Ozawa's fund management body.

Okubo also told the court that Maeda had threatened him into making a confession before prosecutors questioned Ozawa, telling Okubo that he could put his boss in serious trouble if he failed to do so.

"I don't believe my interrogation (of Okubo) had any problems in this case," Maeda said.

Maeda said Friday he decided to testify at Ozawa's trial, despite being convicted and jailed, because he could not stand reading Okubo's testimony in the media that, he claimed, was very far from the truth.



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