Ichiro Ozawa Headed for Indictment

Monday, October 4, 2010


Tokyo -- Former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa now faces a mandatory indictment after a second citizens' panel recommended that action in a ruling released today. Last month, Ozawa was a strong candidate to become the nation's prime minister; today, he is relegated to the unenviable role of suspect-in-chief.

The citizens' panel overrules several earlier decisions by prosecutors that there is not enough evidence to warrant Ozawa's indictment. Because of this fact, some commentators believe that the former DPJ leader is not actually in great danger of facing jail time.

"He is almost certain to be found not guilty," contends Michael Cucek in his thoughtful blog.

Nevertheless, the indictment is certain to further sully Mr. Ozawa's public image, where he is now widely regarded as a "dirty politician," whether or not the actual facts fully justify such a conclusion.

The political impact of Ozawa's indictment may - somewhat oddly - work out to the benefit of the ruling party. Prime Minister Naoto Kan's decision to freeze Ozawa supporters out of top offices may prove to be a successful gamble, since the indictment and trial of their leader is almost certain to throw the pro-Ozawa forces within the DPJ into considerable disarray. This means that Ozawa's decline may work in favor of party unity in the short-term.

DPJ Secretary-General Katsuya Okada, somewhat graciously in light of his own feelings toward Ozawa, described the citizens' panel decision as "surprising and regrettable."

The charge against Mr. Ozawa is that he was responsible for misleading entries in the 2004 and 2005 reports of the Rikuzankai, his fundraising group. Three of Ozawa's assistants - Tomohiro Ishikawa, Takanori Okubo, and Mitsutomo Ikeda - have previously been indicted, but all of them have reportedly maintained that Ozawa was not personally involved in the misreporting.

As far as been publicly revealed, there is no direct evidence to tie Ozawa to any personal wrongdoing. Still, two separate citizens' panels have recommended indictment, which will now automatically proceed.

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