Prosecutors on Thursday indicted an 88-year-old former senior bureaucrat on a charge of negligence resulting in death and injury over a car accident in Tokyo last year amid some public outcry that apparent favoritism allowed him to escape ever being arrested in the case.
According to the indictment, Kozo Iizuka, a former chief of what is now the defunct Agency of Industrial Science and Technology under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, ran a red light as he mistook the gas pedal for the brake, hitting and killing Mana Matsunaga, 31, and her daughter Riko, 3, on a bicycle when his vehicle entered a crosswalk in the Ikebukuro commercial district on April 19.
Iizuka's wife, who was in the car, was among nine people injured. Police referred the case to prosecutors on Nov. 12.
The police's handling of the case, in which Iizuka was never arrested, has attracted criticism, with some claiming he received favorable treatment due to his former position.
Iizuka was traveling at a speed of about 60 kilometers per hour before entering the crosswalk, but the vehicle accelerated when he mistakenly stepped on the wrong pedal, hitting a speed around 96 kph at the time of impact, according to prosecutors.
"I want the disclosure of the truth -- why two lives had to be taken," Matsunaga's 33-year-old husband told a press conference.
He also said he is planning to view the evidence presented by prosecutors and ask questions to the defendant by taking advantage of a system that encourages crime victims and their families, among others, to take part in trials.
The police investigation proceeded while Iizuka was allowed to stay at home because he also sustained injuries and was hospitalized after the accident, according to the police.
Tokyo police concluded the accident was caused by Iizuka, a University of Tokyo graduate, who retired from the agency in 1989, after it was determined the vehicle did not have any mechanical problems.
Prosecutors chose to charge Iizuka with negligence rather than dangerous driving, resulting in death and injury, which carries a heavier penalty, in accordance with the determination by the police that Iizuka unintentionally ran over the victims.
Iizuka told investigators shortly after the accident that the brake did not work, but he later said there was a possibility he mistook gas pedal for the brake because he panicked, according to investigative sources.
If convicted on a charge of negligence resulting in death and injury, offenders face a prison term up to seven years or a fine up to 1 million yen ($9,100).