American behind Carlos Ghosn escape is ailing in Japanese prison, lawyers say

After hiding from criminal charges in Tokyo two years ago, former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn launched a public campaign to attack Japan’s justice system, alleging conditions in the country’s prisons. is designed to “Leads you to despair.”

Now, Michael Taylor, the American who designed Mr. Ghosn’s dramatic escape, is experiencing those extreme conditions for himself, his legal team said, as they campaign to bring them to life. he returned to the United States.

Mr. Taylor, the former Green Beret who brought Mr. Ghosn out of Japan in a loudspeaker box, suffered frostbite from lack of heating at the Fuchu prison on the outskirts of Tokyo, where he is serving a two-year sentence, the laws said his teacher. .

Mr. Taylor, 61, and his son, Peter, 28, who assisted in the escape, pleaded guilty in June in a Tokyo court after being arrested in the United States and extradited. They are now seeking to serve the remainder of their sentence in a US prison.

Although Michael Taylor may be one of Japan’s highest convicts, his experience in its penalty system is not unique. Japan has come under intense scrutiny at home and abroad for its treatment of prisoners and detainees, with critics pointing out inadequate medical care and a lack of heating and cooling systems. almost universally can lead to life-threatening illness.

Since his conviction last year, Mr. Taylor has been held in an unheated cell, sitting on a thin mat with little protection from the cold cement, said one of the attorneys in the United States. his, said Paul Kelly.

Mr. Taylor suffered from frostbite while he worked in a prison factory, Mr. Kelly said. Fuchu inmates are not allowed to wear gloves at work, he added, and they are required to wash their hands several times a day with cold water as part of the facility’s hygiene regimen.

According to Mr. Kelly, a prison doctor diagnosed Mr. Taylor with frostbite in January. His fingers were red and began to blister, the lawyer said.

Mr. Taylor was not able to speak directly to his family or to his US legal team, but he described the diagnosis to one of his Japanese lawyers during a recent prison visit. Attorneys reported Mr. Taylor’s condition in an email to his family and Mr. Kelly.

Lamia Taylor, Mr Taylor’s wife, said: “We are distraught. “This is serious now. This is a health issue.”

Contacted by The New York Times, Japan’s corrections department said it could not comment on individual cases but that inmates had been provided with adequate clothing, blankets and medical care in good conditions. cold.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Tokyo declined to comment on Mr Taylor, citing privacy considerations, but said that the US had “reported longstanding concerns to the Japanese authorities about the heating inadequate warmth in prisons and detention centers, and continue to encourage authorities to improve conditions.”

In recent weeks, as Mr Taylor and other inmates have been restricted from entering their cells to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, he has had greater access to blankets, allowing for the condition. his condition improved, Mr. Kelly said.

However, Mr. Taylor’s experience underscores longstanding concerns about Japan’s prison system, which local activists have criticized as unsafe and overly punishing.

Yuko Shiota, a spokeswoman for the Prisoner’s Rights Center, an advocacy group for prison reform in Japan, said inmates are often diagnosed with frostbite, sometimes so severe that there is frostbite. may require amputation.

“They say they don’t have the budget, and the problem has not improved,” she said of the lack of heating in the prison.

In its 2020 edition annual report On global human rights, the US State Department notes that in Japan “some prisons continue to lack adequate medical care and adequate heating in winter or cooling in summer”.

The mistreatment of foreign prisoners and detainees in Japan has come into the spotlight in recent years as a number of cases where lack of adequate medical care resulted in serious injury or even death. dead.

Last spring, a young woman from Sri Lanka died in a detention facility in Nagoya after officials there repeatedly refused requests to transfer her to a hospital. A government investigation into her death declined to blame but recommended reform of the center’s medical procedures.

When he fled Japan in 2019 just before New Year’s Eve, Mr. Ghosn cited his belief that Japan’s justice system would never give him a fair trial. He was released on bail after being arrested multiple times for financial misconduct – charges he called the product of a corporate conspiracy backed by the Japanese government.

Mr Taylor and his son helped him plan and execute his escape, which in part included being hidden in a box placed on a flight first to Turkey and then to Beirut. Mr Ghosn remains in Lebanon, in no danger of being extradited and he is working to restore his image.

The Taylors returned to the United States, where the father shared with the media his story of helping Mr. Ghosn escape. American authorities arrested the Taylors in the spring of 2020, following an extradition request from Japan.

They spent months battling extradition, arguing in court that prison conditions in Japan equated to torture. But They were handed over to Japan in March last year and brought to trial three months later. Mr. Taylor received a two-year sentence, and his son a year and eight months. Peter Taylor is being held in another prison.

In October, the United States approved the Taylors’ application to serve the remainder of the sentence in the US prison system. But the Japanese government is “pulling their heels,” Mr. Kelly said.

An official from the Japanese Ministry of Justice said the transition usually takes at least a year.

Hisako Ueno contribution report. American behind Carlos Ghosn escape is ailing in Japanese prison, lawyers say

Fry Electronics Team

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