TOKYO • In an unexpected move yesterday, a Tokyo court decided not to extend the detention of ousted Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn, meaning he may soon be released from jail, where he has been since his arrest for alleged financial misconduct.
The Tokyo District Court said it also decided against extending detention for former Nissan executive Greg Kelly, 62, who was arrested along with Ghosn on Nov 19.
The court rejected an appeal from prosecutors against its original decision.
Ghosn, 64, led Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors and France's Renault.
He was indicted on Dec 10 for allegedly understating his income by about half over a five-year period from 2010, and re-arrested the same day for the same alleged crime covering the past three years. The 10-day detention period in the second instance ran out yesterday.
Both he and Kelly, his alleged accomplice, have denied wrongdoing, local media have reported.
The court had widely been expected to extend the detention for at least another 10 days, as granting bail to suspects who insist on their innocence has until recently been unusual in Japan. It did not disclose reasons for its decision.
The high-profile case has put Japan's criminal justice system under international scrutiny and sparked criticism for some of its practices, including keeping suspects in detention for long periods and prohibiting defence lawyers from being present during interrogations, which can last eight hours a day.
The court's decision could reflect sensitivity to that criticism as well as changing attitudes in the courts, said Mr Masashi Akita, a defence lawyer in Osaka with more than 30 years' experience.
"They are very nervous about criticism of their lenient approach towards detention. This is a typical case of such changing, I suppose," Mr Akita said.
"I think this case has a big impact and effect on the Japanese justice practice, and such a move is favourable for the defence side."
Public broadcaster NHK said Ghosn could be released soon if any appeal by prosecutors is rejected by the court and bail is granted.
However, Mr Akita said it could take until the middle of next week for all procedures to run their course - if indeed the men are freed.
It was not immediately clear how much bail would be, meaning it was still uncertain whether Ghosn would indeed be released.
Activist fund manager Yoshiaki Murakami, arrested in 2006 for insider trading, paid an initial 500 million yen (S$6.1 million) in bail.
Ghosn's arrest marked a dramatic fall for a leader once hailed for rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy. Accustomed to a globe-trotting lifestyle, Ghosn has been treated like others in detention and held in a small room.