Top prosecutors office apologizes
to acquitted gov't official
The deputy head of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office has directly apologized to Atsuko Muraki, a former senior official of the health ministry who was acquitted after Osaka prosecutors wrongly charged her in a postal discount system abuse case, government sources said Thursday.
Deputy Prosecutor General Hiroshi Ozu disclosed the apology during the day’s meeting of the justice minister’s private panel to examine prosecutors’ qualifications, the sources said.
According to the sources, Ozu met Muraki at a Tokyo law office for about 40 minutes on Tuesday evening and offered an apology as representing the top prosecutors’ office.
Muraki was quoted as telling Ozu that the investigation had been carried out in a manner ‘‘absolutely in disregard of the facts’’ and that the credentials of the prosecutors were ‘‘extremely questionable.’‘
Muraki was arrested in June 2009 and later indicted on a charge of forging a document to enable a false organization to take advantage of the postal discount system for handicapped people, but was acquitted in September last year.
After her acquittal, she was transferred from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to assume a senior post at the Cabinet Office.
In late December, the 55-year-old Muraki filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court, demanding that the state plus two former and one incumbent prosecutor pay a total of 36 million yen in compensation for the distress she suffered as a result of her unjustified arrest and indictment.
The three include Hiromichi Otsubo, 57, a former chief of the special investigative squad of the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office, and Tsunehiko Maeda, 43, a former Osaka prosecutor who led a criminal probe into the postal case.
Muraki Brings Suit Against the State
28th December, 2010
An acquitted former senior official of the health ministry plans to file a suit as soon as Monday seeking state compensation for being wrongly charged in a postal abuse case, sources familiar with the matter said.
The sources said Atsuko Muraki will file the suit with the Tokyo District Court demanding around 36.7 million yen in compensation and other payments for distress suffered as a result of her unjustified arrest and indictment by the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office last year.
A team from the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office acknowledged Friday that a scandal involving evidence tampering by senior Osaka prosecutors during their investigation of the case stemmed from ‘‘organizational issues,’’ as they paid little attention to inconvenient evidence and supervisors failed to appropriately oversee the investigation.
Muraki was arrested in June 2009 and later indicted over the postal abuse case in which a bogus organization abused a mail discount system for handicapped people, but she was acquitted by the Osaka District Court in September this year.
Back to work after 15 months
(Sep. 23, 2010)
After a 15-month leave of absence, Muraki returned to work Wednesday, one day after her acquittal was finalized.
She arrived at the welfare ministry's office in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district shortly before noon. About 50 senior ministry officials and employees welcomed her with applause. Later in a meeting with health minister Ritsuo Hosokawa, Muraki bowed and apologized for causing them worry.
"We've all been waiting for you," Hosokawa told her. "You've gone through a lot of difficulty."
Muraki shook hands with Hosokawa and received a letter of reappointment from the minister. "I'm so happy I can finally come back to the office," Muraki said at a press conference earlier in the day. "But, I'm nervous because I've missed a year and three months."
Regarding Maeda's arrest, Muraki said: "I'm really surprised since the case has developed so rapidly. I hope it'll help prosecutors understand their problems and correct them."
The ministry will appoint her as a bureau chief by the end of the month. She headed the ministry's Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau before she was arrested in June last year.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Muraki relieved, critical of probe (Sep. 12, 2010) The Yomiuri Shimbun
Exonerated bureaucrat Atsuko Muraki greets a supporter after a press conference Friday in Osaka. "I don't want them [prosecutors] to take away any more of my time," bureaucrat Atsuko Muraki said at a press conference Friday after her exoneration, recalling her 15 month-long ordeal since her arrest. Muraki, 54, said, "I fought [the court battle] believing it would unfold this way." She also urged prosecutors not to appeal the case. Muraki--a former director general of the Equal Employment, Children and Family Bureau of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry--silently listened to the presiding judge at the Osaka District Court as he handed down the ruling, with her husband, daughters and supporters looking on. She had been charged with forging an official document to give preferential treatment to an organization for the disabled. At the district court's Bench No. 201, presiding Judge Nobuyuki Yokota read out the main part of the ruling: "The defendant is not guilty." An apparently relieved Muraki, dressed in a gray jacket and skirt, bowed slightly with misty eyes. After the ruling, she attended a press conference at a courtroom reporters' press club in Osaka, together with her lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, and supporters. Muraki said with a smile: "I greet this day with the support of many people. I'm really grateful to them." Asked how she felt when the not-guilty ruling was handed down, Muraki said: "I can't find any words to express it. My heart jumped in my chest." About her family members and supporters, Muraki said, "Their belief in me freed me of despair and isolation." Muraki expressed her desire to return to her previous workplace, saying, "I want to go back to where I was." The trial was unusual in that the court rejected several depositions taken by prosecutors . Recalling the eight month-long trial, Muraki said: "I understand very well how difficult it is to prove the truth. I knew the facts, and I couldn't understand why they [the prosecutors] fabricated the allegation against me. "I want them to reflect on why the ruling was not-guilty." Muyraki's 56-year-old husband, Taro, who sat in spectators seats with their two daughters, shook hands with her supporters and said: "Though I never doubted my wife's innocence, I was anxious about the ruling. I want to tell my wife, 'You did it!'" The husband, an assistant minister of the ministry, added: "If she can't return to her workplace, this is meaningless. I demand the prosecutors not appeal the ruling only to defend their pride." Prosecutors shocked Though the not-guilty ruling had been predicted, senior prosecutors of the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office were shocked by the court's rejection of all the investigators' arguments. Tadafumi Oshima, deputy head of the Osaka prosecutors office, said at a regular press conference Wednesday, "Though the main records of the investigation were rejected as evidence, the judges accepted other evidence that could have led to a guilty ruling." After the ruling, chief prosecutor Takashi Kobayashi and other senior officials of the prosecutors office examined the ruling in Kobayashi's office, where the lights were on after quitting time. When he finally left the office, Kobayashi told reporters: "I can't comment about whether we'll appeal the ruling. We'll consider after reading the ruling in more detail." A prosecutor who took part in the investigation said: "The investigation was like climbing stairs, and [Muraki] surfaced. Though I don't think the questioning was improper, the court rejected it, so there may have been some laxness in the investigation." A senior prosecutor said, "Though the not-guilty ruling was predicted, it was regrettable that all of our arguments were rejected." But another senior prosecutor criticized the work of his colleagues, saying: "They questioned suspects high-handedly, aiming to indict Muraki from the beginning. Examination of evidence was also insufficient. "It was a serious problem that they indicted [Muraki] without having questioned a lawmaker alleged to have influence with the ministry. It's possible that an appeal would double their disgrace. They should consider giving up an appeal." A senior official of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office said, "In light of the fact that a not-guilty ruling was handed down, we'll check what the problem was after reading the ruling." Takeshi Tsuchimoto, a former prosecutor at the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office and professor emeritus of the University of Tsukuba who specialized in the Code of Criminal Procedure, said: "Investigations tend to follow the initial vision of prosecutors. "Prosecutors tend to blindly believe that testimony that contradicts that vision must be false. But it's a basic principle that testimony should be corroborated by other evidence and consistent with other testimony. The prosecutors failed to follow these basic principles. Furthermore, some witnesses they relied on changed their testimony. The result was a not-guilty ruling. I think the prosecutors' actions were lax." Award-winning mystery writer Kaoru Takamura said: "The prosecutors drew up a vision of a crime by themselves and failed to check it out properly. "First of all, the case began with a suspicion that a lawmaker influenced bureaucrats in an abuse of a Diet member's power. But the truth remains unknown. I believe that the prosecutors should reexamine their methods, explain the results to the public and conduct the investigation anew."
Lawyer for acquitted official seeks to examine prosecutors' fault 12th September 2010 OSAKA
The lead counsel for Atsuko Muraki, a senior welfare ministry official who was acquitted Friday of involvement in abusing a postal discount system for handicapped people, said Saturday he hopes to examine prosecutors’ responsibility after the ruling is finalized. ‘‘When the ruling is finalized, I hope to verify why this kind of thing occurred and what responsibility lies with prosecutors,’’ Junichiro Hironaka said in a symposium organized by the Osaka Bar Association. In the case, prosecutors argued that Muraki, 54, instructed a subordinate to fabricate and issue an official document that enabled an organization to abuse the mail discount system after the group’s former chairman asked a lawmaker to speak up for him, but the Osaka District Court found an alibi for the lawmaker. ‘‘Ms Muraki was stunned when she realized prosecutors had fabricated a fact that was not true,’’ Hironaka said. A journal by her former subordinate Tsutomu Kamimura, which the court adopted as evidence, ‘‘had vivid details of why prosecutors turned a deaf ear to his story and forcibly made a deposition by forcing their story on him and how he became desperate. This did a great deal.’‘ In the journal, Kamumura, 41, who is standing in a separate trial over the case, said, ‘‘My statements were crafted.’’