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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Ghosn faces 10 more days in custody, amid French criticism

Tokyo prosecutor defends detention as 'no longer than needed'

A TV camera points to the Tokyo Detention House, where Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn is being held.   © Reuters

TOKYO/AMSTERDAM -- Japanese prosecutors intend to apply on Friday to extend the detention of former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn by another 10 days even as French media rail against what they see as an unusually long custody period.

"Countries have their own histories and legal systems. It's inappropriate to criticize the Japanese system just for being different from your own country," Shin Kukimoto, deputy public prosecutor at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, said Thursday in a regular news conference, countering the French criticism.

French media have condemned Japan's confinement of Ghosn as overly long and harsh. Le Monde expressed dismay at the ban on lawyers during investigations while Les Echos said that Ghosn will likely experience a tough detention under the Japanese system. Ghosn, who was arrested Nov. 19 on suspicions of financial wrongdoing, could be kept in custody through Dec. 10 if the application is approved.

Ghosn's detention was authorized "because the court concluded it was merited," Kukimoto said, adding that prosecutors "have no intention of holding him longer than needed."

Ghosn, who is chairman and CEO of French automaker Renault, is being held at the Tokyo Detention House, where suspects are assigned to sparse, single-person rooms measuring just 4.8 sq. meters and allowed only two baths a week.

In Japan, police may hold a suspect in custody for 48 hours. If prosecutors win approval from a court during that time, the suspect then can be held in detention for up to 10 days, with the possibility of another 10-day extension. In France, police generally are permitted to confine a suspect for only 24 hours at the start of an investigation.

Japan bars attorneys from accompanying suspects during interrogations, unlike in France and many other countries. France also lets suspects meet with their families unless such a meeting is judged to impede the investigation, but Japan limits visits by family members and company affiliates in order to prevent suspects from coordinating stories. Ghosn has been able to meet only with attorneys and consulate officials.

But "legal procedures differ vastly between the two countries, and most of the criticism stems from misunderstandings," said Yuji Shiratori, a professor at Kanagawa University's graduate school of law who is versed in French criminal law.

For serious cases in France, investigations are handed over immediately to a judge of inquiry, under whom suspects can be held for as long as four years and eight months before standing trial.

"With no major differences in the detention environment, aside from barring attorneys from interrogations, the criticism is misplaced," Shiratori said.

Though Ghosn's detention period expires Dec. 10 at the latest, he could be arrested again on separate suspicions and confined for up to another 20 days.

The next focus of the proceedings involves bail. If Ghosn is indicted and still denies accusations against him, prosecutors could object to requests from his representation to let him go free on bail. Japanese courts refuse bail in many cases, with just 30% of suspects being released between indictment and judgment in 2017.

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