OSAKA--Two senior prosecutors who oversaw a case that shook public trust in the legal system were found guilty by the district court here March 30 of allowing criminal behavior by a colleague to go unchecked.
Hiromichi Otsubo, 58, and Motoaki Saga, 50, were handed 18-month prison sentences, suspended for three years.
Both men have been dismissed as prosecutors. They will appeal the ruling, their lawyers said.
Their trial revolved around another case in 2009 involving bureaucrats at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare accused of falsifying documents to enable certain groups to take advantage of special postage discounts.
At that time, Otsubo headed the special investigation team at the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office, while Saga served as his deputy.
The two were suspected of covering up the falsification of data on a floppy disk by Tsunehiko Maeda, a former subordinate of the two defendants at the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office.
Maeda led the investigation into welfare ministry officials accused of falsifying papers to allow an unqualified group to claim generous postal discounts intended for organizations that help disabled people.
He is now serving an 18-month prison sentence for evidence tampering in the case involving the former welfare ministry officials.
The investigation team arrested a former health ministry bureau chief, Atsuko Muraki, for falsifying public documents and indicted her.
In July 2009, Maeda changed the data in a floppy disk seized as evidence to make it appear as though Muraki was involved in the incident. The Asahi Shimbun broke the story about the altered data on Sept. 21, 2010, the same day Maeda was arrested by the Supreme Public Prosecutors' Office for evidence tampering.
Muraki was acquitted in September 2010 and returned to work. Three other individuals were also indicted, but two have since been acquitted.
The revelation that prosecutors were tampering with evidence led to a huge public outcry, which resulted in the resignation of public prosecutor general Hiroshi Obayashi and the creation of a justice minister's advisory panel on prosecutorial reform.
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