Thursday, March 28, 2013

Horie Is Set Free And We Are Not

Internet entrepreneur turned target of prosecutors Horie Takafumi was released from prison yesterday after serving nearly three quarters of his sentence.
Fallen tycoon Horie freed from jail
The Japan Times
by Reiji Yoshida and Kazuaki Nagata, Staff Writers

Takafumi Horie, former president of the Internet firm Livedoor Co. and an entrepreneurial hero for young generations, was paroled Wednesday after spending 21 months behind bars.

In a news conference Wednesday night, an apologetic Horie, who lost 30 kg while incarcerated, expressed his intention to contribute to society by helping ex-prisoners get back on their feet. He also said he wants to reunite with his space rocket project and launch a website to critique how news is reported.

Horie walked out of a prison in Nagano Prefecture at around 7:40 a.m. He soon appeared live in video streamed by Nico Nico Douga, Japan’s leading online video service operator, while he was in a car headed for Tokyo to hold a news conference.

"I thank everybody who took care of me while in prison. Thank you very much. I received parole after serving 74 percent of my prison term," Horie said on Twitter.

In his later press conference, he said, "I caused trouble to many people in society and (Livedoor) shareholders over the Livedoor case and am deeply sorry."

That Horie is now apologetic should not be read as his being accepting of his guilt. He is out on parole. He will, for as long as he is out on parole, keep quiet about the case brought against him.

We should not be surprised if Horie remains quiet about the actions of the judicial system even after his parole period ends. Horie fought hard against the law -- refusing to confess, even after his subordinates agreed to testify against him; asserting his innocence on all charges: appealing his guilty verdicts all the way to the Supreme Court.

Incarceration, however, brings a change in values. The primary one -- and it is particularly forgivable in those who never actually did anything wrong -- is the desire to never be incarcerated again. That Horie would never again want to be seen as challenging the status quo powers is understandable.

Rather than dwelling upon the injustice of his incarceration, Horie seems to have found a private liberty in serving as a caregiver to his fellow inmates. Whilst no substitute for real freedom, the right to care for others liberates the spirit, no matter the condition of the body. That Horie has expressed the desire that other inmates might enjoy the privilege of freedom he is enjoying indicates he has understood that behind the bars and the funny clothes, the imprisoned are human beings -- something he would have never known had himself not become one of them.

That Horie may no longer have the fire to fight for a more just judicial system does not let any of us off the hook. With recent reversals of false convictions and the of challenging of the Diet over the constitutionality of elections, it may seem that judges are waking up to their latent power to mete out justice, rather just impose penalties for supposed violations of the law. Unfortunately, none of the blatantly political cases of the 2000s -- the false accounting cases against Horie and his Livedoor subordinates, Murakami Yoshiaki's insider trading conviction (Link) and the cases against Ozawa Ichiro and his secretaries -- has been reversed on appeal (Ozawa managed to avoid all convictions in the cases brought against him by the controversial Committees for the Inquest of the Prosecution)

For all who dwell in this blessed land, doing anything, we must assume we are still at the mercy of the prosecutors, who need only to suddenly be told not to like us any more to go all Lavrenti Beria ("You bring me the man, I'll find you the crime.") on us.

The fight is not over.

Later - For a less morose take on events, see the Wall Street Journal's coverage of Horie's release. (Link)

1 comment:

Michael Penn said...

I think Horiemon will surprise you and will indeed continue to challenge the establishment. Indeed, the hint is right there in the article: he will establish a website to critique the way the news is reported. I attended some of his last press conferences before he went to prison. I think the man that emerges now will be a thoughtful, penetrating, and articulate critic of the Japanese system. In the end, I think he will actually benefit greatly from his prison experience and be a much deeper and more empathetic character than he would ever have been had he continued only as the brash internet entrepreneur. I also think he is now thoroughly politicized. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised.