Former Japan ruling party leader seeks dismissal of corruption charges

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[JURIST] The former president of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan [official website], Ichiro Ozawa, filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to overturn corruption charges brought against him last month. The Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, an 11-member body composed of members of the public without legal backgrounds [Mainichi Daily News report], voted for the second time in September to overrule a prosecutor’s decision not to bring charges against Ozawa. The charges are related to the false reporting of over ¥ 700 million [The Japan Times report] in relation to the purchase of land for Ozawa’s political fund management group, violating the Political Funds Control Law [text, in Japanese]. The suit, filed in the Tokyo District Court [official website, in Japanese], argues that the committee which indicted Ozawa did not follow proper procedure in overruling the prosecutor’s decision. It also criticized the fact that the committee’s sessions are conducted behind closed doors and the members are not identified. The court has asked the Daini Tokyo Bar Association [official website] to recommend a lawyer to act as prosecutor, despite Ozawa’s requested injunction against the appointment of a prosecutor to pursue the charges. Charges have been brought against Ozawa in relation to the case twice before, but were dropped both times due to lack of evidence. The Prosecution Commission Act [text, in Japanese], governing the Committees for Inquest of Prosecution, was changed in May, allowing the body to overrule the prosecutor’s decision on whether to bring charges. The prosecutor had not wanted to proceed against Ozawa due to the failure of the past attempts to prosecute him.

Despite having a relatively low level of official corruption [JURIST report], Japan has faced high profile corruption cases in the past. In 2008, the Tokyo District Court sentenced former Japanese administrative vice defense minister Takemasa Moriya to two and a half years in prison for accepting bribes and committing perjury [JURIST report] after Moriya pleaded guilty to accepting approximately $126,000 worth of illegal benefits from a military contractor. In May 2007 Agriculture Minister Shinichi Yamazaki committed suicide [Times report] after being called before a parliamentary committee to answer allegations of embezzling over $200,000 in state funds.

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