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Nissan's Ghosn crisis

Ghosn's wife appeals to Trump in bid to pressure Japan over husband

Carole Ghosn asks US president to intervene with Abe to end 'injustice'

Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn and his wife, Carole, leave his lawyer's office in Tokyo prior to his rearrest. (Photo by Toshiki Sasazu)

TOKYO -- Carole Ghosn, the wife of former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn, is urging Japan's diplomatic partners to apply pressure on Tokyo over her husband's legal battle.

Carole Ghosn, an American citizen, published an Op-Ed in The Washington Post on Wednesday, calling on U.S. President Donald Trump to advocate for her husband. "I hope and pray that our president will urge [Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe to allow my husband to obtain bail so he can prepare for trial," she said, referring to Abe's planned visit to the White House later this month. "Please, President Trump, please ask Abe to resolve this injustice."

Although some experts have expressed understanding of Carole Ghosn's campaign, others argue it is inappropriate to use political pressure to try to influence the justice system.

The ousted Nissan boss was arrested on suspicion of financial misconduct last November and spent 108 days in a Tokyo detention center before making bail, only to be rearrested on April 4 over a new breach of trust charge. Regarding the rearrest, Carole Ghosn wrote in the Post: "As a U.S. citizen, I was horrified to discover that many of the rights we enjoy in the United States do not exist in Japan."

She said those rights include having an attorney present during questioning, and she argued that Japan's "'hostage justice' is designed to break the spirit and coerce confessions."

This followed remarks quoted in the April 7 edition of France's Le Journal Du Dimanche, in which Carole Ghosn said that French President Emmanuel Macron had promised her he would do everything in his power to help.

The next day, however, French radio station RTL reported that an official in the president's office had said the government would not give Ghosn special treatment.

Hiroshi Kadono, a former Tokyo High Court judge, questioned Carole Ghosn's appeal to Abe. "The prime minister is head of the executive branch," he said. "It is not desirable to leverage political pressure to tackle judicial matters, as this may disrupt the independence of the three powers."

Kadono suggested that the "natural international scrutiny that we have seen previously" as a result of the Ghosn case could potentially prompt Japan to consider judicial reforms. But he stressed the pressure Carole Ghosn is seeking this time is different. "A political campaign is not suitable," he said.

On the other hand, Kanae Doi, Japan director of Human Rights Watch, expressed sympathy for Carole Ghosn's campaign. The NGO received a petition from her in January, with a nine-page letter, during Carlos Ghosn's first period of detention for allegedly underreporting his salary and committing aggravated breach of trust.

A human rights appeal does not amount to intervention in domestic affairs, "as they are universal," Doi said. "It's understandable that Carole Ghosn has asked for help from ... President Trump."

The Tokyo District Court last Friday approved prosecutors' request to extend Carlos Ghosn's detention through next Monday.

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