• Yomiuri Editorial

Order to Pay Compensation for ‘False Accusation’. Police, Prosecutors Must Identify Cause of Illegal Investigation

As a result of a coercive and high-handed investigation, three men were unreasonably arrested, indicted and detained for a long period of time. The police and prosecutors should examine the problems related to the investigation and apologize to the parties involved.

The Tokyo District Court ordered the Tokyo metropolitan government and the central government to pay ¥160 million in damages in a lawsuit seeking state compensation filed by the president of machinery maker Ohkawara Kakohki Co. and others. The president had been arrested and indicted on suspicion of having illegally exported machinery that could be used for military purposes, but the prosecutors later dropped the case.

The ruling acknowledged that the police and prosecutors “did not conduct the necessary investigations to the fullest extent” and concluded that the arrests and indictments were illegal. The ruling also noted that if the police and prosecutors had conducted a normal investigation, they should have easily discovered that the exports were not illicit.

In addition, the ruling acknowledged that an investigator of the Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department, who was in charge of the case, tricked one of the three men into signing a written statement that was convenient for the police during the interrogation process.

In the course of the investigation, the Public Security Bureau also heard opinions from experts and compiled a report. However, one of the experts refuted the report, saying, “What I said was arbitrarily changed.”

Who led the investigation? Were there no objections to it within the organization? In order to prevent a recurrence of “false accusations,” it is essential to conduct a thorough examination to clarify who was responsible and publicize the results. It is also necessary to consider bringing in a third party to carry out an investigation from a neutral perspective.

Ohkawara Kakohki’s machinery can process liquids into powder that is used in the manufacture of powdered milk and other products. The MPD arrested three men, including the president, in 2020, citing fears that the machinery could be misused to manufacture biological weapons.

The three were indicted, but the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office later withdrew the indictment on the grounds that there were questions about the illegality of the case.

In the trial, a police officer from the Public Security Bureau who was in charge of the investigation appeared as a witness and gave an unusual testimony, claiming that the case was a “fabrication.” Some parts of the police officer’s statement could be taken to indicate that the investigation was based on a desire for career advancement on the part of senior officers.

The government has set a goal of strengthening economic security and has been focusing on efforts such as preventing the outflow of important technologies overseas. The police and prosecutors may have pushed ahead with an unreasonable investigation out of a desire to work on a case that was in step with current trends. Weren’t they driven by a sense of impatience or their ambitions? Such suspicions cannot be dispelled.

One of the three men was diagnosed with cancer while being detained for a long time and died while he was still a “defendant” before the indictment was withdrawn. The defense team for the three men repeatedly asked for their release on bail, but the prosecutors opposed it on the grounds that “evidence might be destroyed,” and the court also refused to grant the request.

One cannot imagine how regrettable it must have been for the deceased man to be detained for a crime he did not commit and to fall ill before restoring his honor. The consequences of this illegal investigation are extremely serious.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 28, 2023)