The two Americans accused of orchestrating former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic escape from prosecution in Tokyo made a last-ditch legal argument to avoid extradition, telling a U.S. judge that Japan would subject them to “mental and physical torture.
In a court filing Wednesday, Michael Taylor and his son Peter said they’d be “held in conditions that would never be permitted by any U.S. court and subjected to lengthy interrogation without the presence of counsel. Defense lawyers cited reports that Ghosn, while in custody, was “interrogated day and night without a lawyer and kept in solitary confinement in a tiny cell before he was released on bail.
The argument marks a shift in tone and strategy for the Taylors, who have claimed for months their alleged role in Ghosn’s escape does not actually constitute a crime in Japan. In calling on U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani to release them, the Taylors are now casting their impending extradition as a human rights issue, comparing Japan’s criminal justice system to “that of an authoritarian regime.
Still, their chances are slim. A judge in Boston ruled in September that Japan’s extradition request met the requirements of its treaty with U.S. The State Department authorized the extradition last month, but the handover was delayed at the eleventh hour on Oct. 29, when Talwani issued a stay to give the Taylors time to make a final legal claim. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday.
The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Federal prosecutors said in court last week that Japanese officials had made arrangements to travel to the U.S. in “the coming days to retrieve the Taylors.
Japanese and American officials say the Taylors orchestrated Ghosn’s escape by putting him inside a large box and smuggling him onto a private plane. At the time, Ghosn was out on bail awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct. He remains a fugitive in Lebanon.
The Taylors have never denied that they were involved in Ghosn’s escape. Indeed, Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, gave an extensive interview to Vanity Fair magazine describing how he planned the operation. But after the Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts, they argued in federal court that helping someone jump bail is not illegal in Japan.
In September, U.S. Magistrate Donald Cabell in Boston authorized the Japanese extradition request, ruling that it was not 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.