The criminal trial of former Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa started Oct. 6. Ozawa has refused to give an explanation to the Diet, saying he would tell the truth in court.
What will Ozawa tell the court? We watched his arraignment with interest, but it was a complete disappointment.
Ozawa pleaded not guilty and intensely criticized the prosecution, saying conducting an investigation for something as trivial as making errors or inappropriate entries on political fund reports encumbers political activities and violates sovereignty of the people.
Political fund reports are an important means for the people who have sovereign power to keep an eye on the activities of politicians and criticize them from a funding standpoint. What is being questioned is not erroneous entries of small amounts for a single fiscal year. The gap between the spirit of the law and Ozawa's recognition is too great.
Moreover, he said nothing about the source of 400 million yen (about $5 million) that was used to purchase land, a matter of great social concern.
It is true that defendants in criminal cases have the right to remain silent, and finding out where the money came from is not a direct point of dispute of the trial. But that is the crux of the suspicions against him.
The Tokyo District Court found Ozawa's three former aides guilty. It carefully examined Ozawa's faltering statements during the investigation and the flow of funds, and rejected, as "untrustworthy," Ozawa's claim at the time that the money was cash he had on hand.
After the first hearing, Ozawa held a short news conference but he mostly concentrated on criticism of the investigation and the court. As for the money, he only said, "It is mine." Does he plan to remain silent to the end?
Ozawa refused to give a firm explanation in the Diet, in court and at news conferences.
At the same time, he affirms that the only way for Japan to get out of its mess is "to recover public trust for party politics." He made the statement in the same first hearing. Of course we have no objections. We urge Ozawa to carefully think what he should do to recover public trust as a responsible politician.
We cannot easily predict the outcome of the trial partly because of the way he faced mandatory indictment based on the resolution of the prosecution inquest committee. Lawyers acting as prosecutors intend to assert that Ozawa knew about the false entries based on his daily relationships with his aides who were required to report to him every little detail and follow his instructions. They also plan to base their claim on the fact that Ozawa had personally signed an application document for a bank loan.
It is not uncommon to establish a case by proving facts based on material evidence and testimonies even when there is no confession or evidence that directly leads to the crime. When we take into consideration the harmful effects of relying on confessions, we can say such a method meets the needs of the times. What matters is whether the process of accumulating the material evidence and testimonies is rational and can win public understanding.
We wish to coolly keep an eye on the exchanges in court until it reaches a ruling next spring.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 7
- « Prev
- Next »