05 March 2019, Tokyo (AFP)
Former auto industry titan Carlos Ghosn moved a step closer to freedom Tuesday as a Tokyo court unexpectedly granted him bail after more than three months in a detention cell.
It was the latest twist in a case that has kept Japan and the business world gripped since the tycoon’s shock arrest on November 19 over suspicions of financial misconduct.
The court set bail at one billion yen ($9 million), but prosecutors appealed the decision and could even file additional allegations against the 64-year-old to keep him from leaving detention.
Under his bail terms, Ghosn is banned from leaving Japan and must adhere to conditions aimed at preventing him from fleeing or destroying evidence.
The time span for the appeal is not known and it is possible he could spend another night behind bars.
The shock decision came a day after Ghosn’s new lead defence lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, told reporters he had filed a “convincing” application for bail that contained fresh elements.
Hironaka, who has a reputation for securing acquittals for high-profile clients in a country where almost all court cases end in conviction, offered greater surveillance of Ghosn and a limit on his electronic communications.
The court has previously said Ghosn’s continued detention was justified because he posed a flight risk and could seek to tamper with evidence. It had already rejected two official bail bids and other attempts to win freedom.
However, his prolonged stay behind bars has come under fire internationally and from rights groups.
Speaking to AFP and French daily Les Echos in January — his only interview with foreign media so far — Ghosn himself said that his continued detention “would not be normal in any other democracy”. “Why am I being punished before being found guilty?” Ghosn asked.