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Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012
Court nixes key depositions against Ozawa
Judge: Ex-aides were forced to implicate kingpin in interrogations
By MASAMI ITO
The Tokyo District Court said Friday it will not admit as evidence key depositions of former aides of ex-Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa, who stands accused of violating the Political Funds Control Law, and slammed prosecutors' interrogations as "illegal."
Interrogation records of lawmaker Tomohiro Ishikawa, one of the ex-aides, were regarded as important evidence for the court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors to prove allegations that Ozawa conspired with his former secretaries to make false entries in the financial reports for his political funds management body Rikuzankai in 2004 and 2005.
But Ishikawa later denied Ozawa was involved and testified at the trial of his boss that he was forced to make the admissions during interrogations.
Friday's rejection of the depositions could significantly impact the outcome of the trial, whose ruling is expected in April.
Presiding Judge Fumio Daizen harshly criticized Masahiro Tashiro, the prosecutor in charge of questioning Ishikawa, saying he put "strong pressure" on Ishikawa to make him stick to the story that Ozawa was involved with the false entries. Tashiro told Ishikawa that if he stood by his statements, Ozawa would probably not have been indicted.
Tashiro's questionable methods came to light after Ishikawa had secretly taped one of the interrogation sessions after his release from custody in May 2010.
The recording was aired during one of Ozawa's trial sessions in October.
"Tashiro's coercion . . . had a powerful influence on Ishikawa, who strongly wanted the defendant (Ozawa) not to be indicted and it was highly likely that his interrogation method would lead to false testimony," Daizen said.
"Prosecutors put strong pressure on Ishikawa to make it difficult for him to change his testimony, hinting possible disadvantageous treatment, including an arrest on a separate charge," he added.
"From the taping of the interrogation, we could see that Tashiro one-sidedly created the deposition based on statements made while Ishikawa was detained, but it is questionable whether he even kept the records of Ishikawa's statements (at the time)," Daizen said. "This sort of interrogation method is illegal and unjust and it is clearly intolerable."
Daizen also acknowledged that not only Tashiro but multiple prosecutors of the special investigative unit put pressure on Ishikawa to implicate Ozawa.
"There is suspicion that the interrogations by Tashiro were not personal, but systematic," Daizen said.
Out of the 42 depositions submitted by the court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors, 29 were either partially or wholly rejected as evidence.
They also included depositions of Mitsutomo Ikeda, another ex-aide.
The court meanwhile accepted as evidence most depositions of former secretary Takanori Okubo.