French President Emmanuel Macron revealed Wednesday that he repeatedly told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he considered the treatment of former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn after his arrest to be unsatisfactory in terms of protecting the rights of a suspect.
"I told (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe several times that the conditions of Carlos Ghosn's detention and questioning did not appear to be satisfactory to me," Macron told reporters.
Ghosn was arrested in 2018 for alleged financial misconduct while in charge of the Japanese automaker. Facing trial, he fled from Japan by jumping bail in December and said he did so to escape the country's "rigged" justice system.
In Tokyo on Thursday, Lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, who had won Ghosn's release in exchange for strict bail conditions, turned in his resignation as one of Ghosn's defense lawyers at the Tokyo District Court.
Following Ghosn's escape, the court has decided to separate his trial from that of former Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly, who has been charged with conspiring with the former chairman over the financial misconduct, according to sources close to the matter.
Macron, during his visit to Japan in June 2019, told reporters after meeting with Abe that it was not the president's role to intervene publicly in individual judicial cases.
(Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron in France on Aug. 24, 2019)[Pool photo]
Macron also said at that time he would remain "vigilant" so that Ghosn's rights as a defendant and presumption of innocence are respected. Ghosn holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationality.
The former auto tycoon's months-long detention following his initial arrest in November 2018 and his restricted access to lawyers and family members drew international criticism.
After escaping from Japan to Lebanon in late December while free on bail, Ghosn renewed his criticism of Japan's justice system and characterized his decision to flee as a bid for "fair justice."
On Ghosn's escape from Japan where he was facing a trial that would have started this spring, Macron declined to comment, saying France was not involved.
Ghosn said in last week's press conference in Beirut that the French government's 2015 decision to increase its shareholding in Renault SA and to double its voting rights brought "bitterness" from Nissan and Japanese officials.
Macron, who was the economy minister at the time, told reporters that he "had always defended French interests."
(Former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn speaks in a pool interview with Japanese media organization in Beiruit on Jan. 10, 2020)