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Editorial: Ghosn's bail decision was too long in coming

Former Nissan Motor Co. chief Carlos Ghosn has been granted bail by the Tokyo District Court.

Indicted for aggravated breach of trust under the Companies Act, among other offences, Ghosn had been in detention for over 100 days when the ruling was handed down on March 5. The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office filed an appeal, but it was rejected the same day.

Considering the content of the charges, we cannot see any need to keep the former Nissan head in detention further.

Ghosn -- who before his arrest was the triple-crown chairman of Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors Corp., and France's Renault SA -- has consistently claimed his absolute innocence. This very insistence caused prosecutors to declare Ghosn a risk for destroying or hiding evidence should he be granted bail. Indeed, it is typical in such cases for bail to be denied until all pretrial procedures -- in which prosecutors and defence attorneys identify the key issues of contention -- have been completed.

Those pretrial processes have yet to begin in the Ghosn case, so the decision to grant him bail is unusual. The court accepted his defense team's monitoring proposals, adding terms to his bail conditions including the installation of a surveillance camera outside Ghosn's apartment door. It appears the court judged that implementing the conditions would reduce the possibility of the ex-Nissan chairman hiding or destroying evidence.

Furthermore, there is greater consideration for defendants' human rights in the West than in Japan, and Ghosn's prolonged detention was attracting significant international criticism. It seems likely that this, too, played a role in the court's bail decision.

Indeed, the Ghosn case has put Japan's criminal justice system under a microscope.

The Code of Criminal Procedure states that bail shall be denied when "there is probable cause to suspect that the accused may conceal or destroy evidence."

Prosecutors have insisted that Ghosn could exercise influence over figures at Nissan to do just that, and the court accepted this argument on two previous occasions, keeping Ghosn locked up.

However, two Nissan employees -- including an executive officer -- have cut plea bargains to provide testimony backing up the charges against Ghosn. In other words, the former Nissan head already has very little room to potentially tamper with evidence or witnesses. Furthermore, he has been in detention for nearly two months since he was indicted. All things considered, we are forced to wonder if Ghosn was denied bail for too long.

Being confined after arrest and over a long detention is mentally and physically taxing. It can also have a serious impact on a person's life and social existence, up to and including losing their job. That being the case, in principle a suspect should only be denied bail if there is a truly realistic risk that they will destroy evidence or flee if released.

In recent times, courts have proven unwilling just to swallow the recommendations of prosecutors on whether to grant bail, and indeed we see a growing tendency to examine cases very closely before making a decision. We call on both prosecutors and the bench to apply bail according to the principles of the law.

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