Photo/IllutrationTokyo Detention House in the capital's Katsushika Ward (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

During my stint as a legal affairs reporter, I made frequent trips to the Tokyo Detention House in the Kosuge district of Katsushika Ward.

The facility's overpowering presence, with its intimidating watchtower, massive gray walls and the hard eyes of the guards, always filled me with a peculiar sense of unease.

Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Motor Co. held there since last November, was finally granted bail on March 5 by the Tokyo District Court.

Ghosn's family's lawyer told a news conference in Paris that the Japanese judicial system belongs in the Middle Ages for detaining a suspect or defendant for more than 100 days. The lawyer denounced the system as a throwback to the dark ages prior to the establishment of fundamental human rights.

Ghosn's bail was set at 1 billion yen ($8.9 million). The amount is meant as a deterrent to skipping town or refusing to appear in court.

In Japan, bail is typically set at somewhere between around 1.5 million yen and 2 million yen, but it varies by the size of the detainee's assets and the nature of the alleged crime.

The presiding judge in Ghosn's case must have had a tough time determining the number, as the "amount that really hurts to lose" differs by each individual.

The heftiest bail set so far was 2 billion yen for major meat wholesaler Mitsuru Asada caught for fraudulent receipt of subsidies.

For former Livedoor Co. CEO Takafumi Horie, the amount was 300 million yen, and 200 million yen for former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka (1918-1993), the central figure in the Lockheed scandal.

Is 1 billion yen too high or too low for Ghosn?

His current attorney, Junichiro Hironaka, vowed at a news conference to prove Ghosn's innocence, referring to a U.S. newspaper story that stated to the effect that no capable foreign executive would ever want to come to Japan if what Ghosn has done were to be deemed criminal.

Did the globally celebrated executive really treat Nissan as his own property? How outdated is Japan's notorious "hostage judicial system"?

While the rest of the world watches closely, Ghosn is finally about to appear in public.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 6

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.