Friday, February 17, 2012

Ozawa Ichiro Clears A Major Hurdle

In his trial for purportedly overseeing the filing of false political funding organization accounts, Ozawa Ichiro today received a huge gift from the Tokyo District Court. The court threw out as evidence the confession investigators forced from Diet member Ishikawa Tomohiro, Ozawa's former political secretary. (J)

Ishikawa's confession was the one damning piece of evidence the prosecuting attorneys had against Ozawa. It had been thrown out of court in Ishikawa's own trial due to evidence of prosecutorial misconduct. Ishikawa was still convicted along with two other former or present Ozawa secretaries of filing false funding accounts based on other evidence.

Commentators agree with Ozawa's lawyers' contention that without the acceptance of Ishikawa's confession into evidence, the case against Ozawa falls apart (J). Only in Ishikawa's confession was there any statement that Ozawa unambiguously assented to the falsification of the recording of a personal loan Ozawa made to his political funding organization, the Rikuzankai.

Ozawa's full exoneration will not come until April, when the court renders its verdict. However, with an acquittal now a near certainty, Ozawa will have greater leeway to inject himself in the political fights within the DPJ, particularly the battle over the raising of the consumption tax (E). He can also be expected to cause headaches for Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko over whether or not he will lead his followers and allies within the party to join with the opposition in passing a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet, as he nearly last June did against the Kan Cabinet.

From all appearances, the big dog has slipped his leash.

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