The two Americans who helped formerNissan Motor Co. chairman Carlos Ghosn escape Tokyo failed in their latest effort to avoid criminal charges in Japan, as a federal judge in Boston rejected a last-ditch appeal, paving the way for their extradition.
U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani had temporarily delayed the extradition after lawyers for Michael Taylor and his son Peter requested more time to challenge the State Department’s decision to send them to face trial in Japan. But Talwani ruled Thursday that the Taylors can now be extradited, rejecting their argument that they would be denied basic legal rights by the Japanese authorities or even tortured.
The Taylors still have the option to appeal the ruling.
A federal magistrate in Boston approved Japan’s extradition request in early September, and the State Department gave its formal authorization about two months later. But lawyers for the Taylors have launched a last-ditch bid to block it.
Talwani issued the initial delay after the Taylors’ lawyers warned that the U.S. could be preparing to hand their clients over to the Japanese government within hours of the State Department’s authorization in October.
In court, the defense cited reports that Japanese prisoners had been “interrogated day and night” without lawyers present and kept in solitary confinement in tiny cells. They cast the Taylors’ impending extradition as a human rights issue, comparing Japan’s criminal justice system to “that of an authoritarian regime.”
At a hearing on Nov. 5, Talwani asked U.S. prosecutors to produce documentation showing that the State Department had considered the possibility of torture. Less than a week later, prosecutors filed such a document, signed by the deputy secretary of state, though the Taylors’ lawyers argued that it didn’t meet the legal requirements for protecting Americans from torture.
The Taylors’ arguments in court echoed criticisms of Japan’s criminal justice system that Ghosn has made repeatedly since he was arrested on charges of financial misconduct. Last December, he fled Japan with the help of the Taylors while he was out on bail and awaiting trial, prosecutors say. He was concealed in a box for musical equipment and smuggled onto a plane. He remains a fugitive in Lebanon.
Michael Taylor gave a detailed interview to Vanity Fair describing how he planned the operation. But after they were arrested in Massachusetts, they argued in federal court that helping someone jump bail isn’t a crime in Japan.
In September, however, U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell in Boston approved the extradition request, ruling that it wasn’t the role of an American court to parse the nuances of a foreign penal code.
“The prevailing view is that the extradition court should defer to the foreign country’s interpretation of its own laws,” Cabell said.
The Taylors deployed lobbyists in Washington to urge the State Department and the White House not to move forward with the extradition, highlighting Michael Taylor’s service as a Green Beret and his career rescuing kidnapped children in the Middle East. But the campaign was always a long shot, and the State Department approved the extradition request in October.
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