Photo/IllutrationPolice officers patrol the area outside the Tokyo Detention House where Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., is being held. (Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

Prosecutors were stunned by the Tokyo District Court’s rejection of their request to extend the detention of Carlos Ghosn, with some suggesting the court caved in to international criticism of Japan’s judicial system.

A high-ranking prosecutor said the court probably didn’t want to be put in the same boat as the prosecutors.

Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Motor Co., has been held at the Tokyo Detention House since he was first arrested on Nov. 19.

Foreign media organizations covering the Ghosn case have criticized the judicial system, which allows prosecutors to keep suspects in detention indefinitely through re-arrests and indictments.

The court’s Dec. 20 rejection of the prosecutors’ request raised short-lived expectations that the embattled auto executive would finally be freed on bail.

“If he was released early out of consideration for international opinion, the court could be considered a hero of sorts since the impression would spread that Japanese courts were different from the prosecutors,” the high-ranking prosecutor said.

However, a veteran criminal court judge raised doubts about the manner in which prosecutors arrested and then re-arrested Ghosn on suspicion of under-reporting his annual remuneration as Nissan chairman.

“The case is, in fact, a single continuous one,” the judge said. “I thought it was strange that prosecutors separated it into two periods and made the re-arrest.”

In his first arrest, Ghosn was suspected of under-reporting his remuneration in Nissan’s annual securities reports for the five-year period from fiscal 2010 until 2014. The re-arrest was essentially the same suspicion but for the period from fiscal 2015 until 2017.

Shin Kukimoto, deputy chief prosecutor for the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, brushed aside such criticism at a Dec. 20 news conference and said the court’s rejection would affect the investigation into Ghosn.

When asked about dividing the arrests into two periods, Kukimoto said, “We conducted the necessary investigation in compliance with the laws and warrants from the court.”

He also said he did not know if international opinion influenced the court’s decision.

In any event, it is extremely rare for a court to reject a detention extension request, especially if it comes from the special investigation department as it did in Ghosn’s case.

Experts raised hopes that the court ruling could be a first step in revising the nation’s judicial system.

“This might become a turning point that changes the impression of the special investigation department as being almost sacred,” said Yoji Ochiai, a former prosecutor who now works as a lawyer.

Hiroshi Kadono, who once served as a judge on the Tokyo High Court, said the district court likely felt that 10 days detention for the re-arrest was sufficient since prosecutors were not starting their investigation from scratch.

“I believe the result took into consideration the need for balance between the needs of the investigation and human rights,” Kadono said. “There is also the possibility that consideration was given to the fact that prosecutors likely had already accumulated a lot of evidence beforehand given that a plea-bargaining deal was employed in the case.”

Ghosn was arrested for a third time on Dec. 21 and remains in detention.