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Thursday, Sep. 27, 2012

High court bars all new evidence in Ozawa case


Staff writer

The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday rejected all new evidence submitted by the prosecution at the opening of the appellate trial of former Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa.

The Tokyo District Court in April acquitted Ozawa of filing false political funding reports in 2004 and 2005 following his indictment in January 2011. The court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors in the case are seeking to overturn that ruling.

Ozawa faced mandatory indictment after a prosecution inquest committee overrode Tokyo prosecutors' decision not to press charges, citing a lack of evidence. The criminal trial system allows the prosecution to appeal an acquittal resulting from a mandatory indictment.

On Wednesday, the court-appointed lawyers told the high court that the district court made an erroneous evaluation of the evidence, which resulted in Ozawa being cleared of conspiring with his former secretaries to file false financial reports for his political fund management body.

Ozawa's defense team claimed the court-appointed lawyers' argument was completely groundless, and urged the high court to uphold the acquittal ruling.

Defendants are not required to appear for appellate trials, but Ozawa attended Wednesday's session anyway, which was held five months to the day of his acquittal by the district court.

After the two sides made their opening statements, the high court rejected the 12 new items submitted by the court-appointed lawyers and concluded the trial. A ruling is expected Nov. 12.

Ozawa, whose district court trial began last October, has steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout the prolonged legal proceedings. He left the DPJ in July and formed Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People's Life First.)

The district court ruled there was enough evidence to conclude that Ozawa's ex-secretaries informed him that a ¥400 million land purchase in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, in 2004 would be included in the books for 2005, and also told him that his personal assets were used as collateral.

But the court said there was insufficient evidence to prove Ozawa knew the transactions should have been registered in 2004 or that his personal assets should have been documented, and ruled he could not be held liable.



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The Japan Times

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