Photo/IllutrationLawyers Kaku Imamura, left, and Michiko Kameishi call for an end to Japan's "hostage justice" at a news conference in Tokyo on April 10. (Shunsuke Abe)

The intense spotlight thrown on Japan's "hostage justice" system by the arrest of Carlos Ghosn led 1,010 lawyers and scholars to submit a petition to the Justice Ministry on April 10 to end the practice.

Under Japan's criminal justice system, long a target of criticism both overseas and at home, suspects are held in detention longer if they continue denying allegations made against them.

Well-known criminal lawyers, scholars and a former judge initiated the petition in early March.

They include Junichiro Hironaka, the lead defense lawyer for Ghosn, ousted as chairman of Nissan Motor Co. over allegations of financial misconduct, and Takashi Takano, a member of Ghosn's legal team.

"The long-term detention in the Carlos Ghosn case has triggered surprise and criticism overseas, leading to doubts about Japan's integrity as a democratic nation that guarantees human rights," the petition reads.

Ghosn, 65, spent 108 days at the Tokyo Detention House as a result of being arrested three times. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing and accused his detractors of waging a vendetta against him.

The case has attracted massive media interest overseas, fueling calls on Japan to overhaul its procedures for holding suspects in detention before trial.

The petition noted that judicial authorities often make piecemeal arrests so as to ensure the individual remains in detention. Another much-criticized practice is a ban on a client's lawyer sitting in on questioning.

The petition suggested that a prolonged detention is meant as a measure to "force a confession” by wearing the individual down.

The lawyers and academics urged judicial authorities to rectify the situation, which they contend violates internationally agreed norms on human rights that prohibit torture and carry the assumption of innocence until proven guilty.

"Lawyers and citizens will keep speaking out against (hostage justice) to change the practice through legislation," lawyer Kaku Imamura, who wrote a book titled “Enzai Bengoshi” (Lawyer to fight against false accusation), said at a news conference on April 10.

Imamura said he will set up a website to propose specific legal revisions.