Carlos Ghosn's Japanese lawyers quit after former Nissan chief absconds

By Tim Kelly and Chang-Ran Kim
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Carlos Ghosn's Japanese lawyers quit after former Nissan chief absconds

FILE PHOTO: Junichiro Hironaka, chief lawyer of the ousted Nissan Motor Co Ltd chairman Carlos Ghosn, attends a news conference in Tokyo

By Tim Kelly and Chang-Ran Kim

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese attorneys representing Carlos Ghosn, including lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, quit on Thursday following the former Nissan chief's flight to Lebanon from Japan, where he had been fighting financial misconduct charges.

In an emailed statement, Hironaka said everyone involved in the case at his practice had resigned. A spokeswoman there declined to give a reason.

A second lawyer in Ghosn's three-person legal team, Takashi Takano, also quit on Thursday, according to an official at his office.

A person who answered the telephone at the office of the third lawyer, Hiroshi Kawatsu, said she did not know if he still represented the former automotive executive.

Ghosn, who fled Tokyo last month, told Reuters in an interview in Beirut with his wife Carole that he was happy to stay in Lebanon for the rest of his life and claimed he was treated with "brutality" during his detention and bail in Japan.

Carole said she was "done with Japan".

Japan has issued international wanted notices for the couple, which means the two will live in Lebanon as fugitives and could be arrested if they leave their country.

Hironaka, who earlier expressed disappointment at his client's decision to abscond, had said he would quit once Ghosn had settled his account.

The case has cast a harsh light on Japan's justice system, igniting a fierce publicity battle between the former businessman and Justice Minister Masako Mori, who has described Ghosn's criticism as "absolutely intolerable."

Ghosn spent more than 120 days in a Tokyo detention centre and was interrogated on most days, often for more than seven hours without his lawyers, Takano has said.

Prosecutors questioned him for the first 43 days without a break, including Christmas and New Year's Day.

On Thursday, Ghosn found an ally in another foreigner, Australian sports journalist Scott McIntyre, who was detained for 44 days for trespassing in a bid to get information on his missing children. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was freed on Wednesday with a six-month suspended sentence.

Speaking at a news conference, McIntyre, who was held at the same detention centre as Ghosn in western Tokyo for part of his detention, described the conditions there as "torture".

Japanese officials reject such criticism, saying the justice system is humane and protects human rights.

McIntyre said the lights were on 24 hours a day, making it impossible to sleep more than an hour at night, and that several of his fellow detainees told him they would confess to crimes they had not committed in order to shorten their time there.


(Reporting by Sam Nussey, Tim Kelly and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by David Dolan and Clarence Fernandez)