Justice Ministry Fires Prosecutor Over Witness Beating
TOKYO (AP) _ A prosecutor accused of beating a witness during questioning in a major bribery scandal was fired today in the first case of its kind in Japan.
Although human rights groups and lawyers in Japan have often charged authorities with violent interrogation tactics, Hitoshi Kanazawa is the first Japanese prosecutor to be fired for using violence against a witness, according to Justice Ministry records.
Kanazawa, 33, is accused of slapping a lumber company executive and threatening to throw him out a 12th-floor window during an Oct. 14 interrogation that was part of a bribery scandal involving construction executives and politicians.
The executive, whose name has not been disclosed, sued the government Nov. 8, saying his cuts required two stiches and a week of treatment to repair.
″For a prosecutor to have used such violence against a witness is impermissible in a country ruled by laws,″ Justice Minister Akira Mikazuki said in announcing the firing.
Mikazuki said he was ″shocked″ by the affair and added that Kanazawa may be subject to criminal prosecution.
The minister denied that Kanazawa’s actions reflected common practice among prosecutors, calling the case ″unique.″ Japan has no regulations on the length of an interrogation, and the witness’ or suspect’s lawyer is usually not present.
So far, two provincial governors, two mayors and more than 20 executives of several construction companies have been arrested in connection with the scandal over bribes for favored treatment in public works projects.
Among those arrested is the president of the executive’s company, Mitsuo Moriya. Moriya is accused of acting as an intermediary in bribes to the local governor.
Kanazawa was normally based in Hamamatsu, central Japan, but was dispatched to Sendai, the northern city where Moriya’s company is based, to help other prosecutors in the case.