Ghosn ‘fled by bullet train’, Japan vows to bolster borders

Fugitive former Nissan Motor Co. President and CEO Carlos Ghosn left on a bullet train. (AP/Eugene Hoshiko, File)
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Updated 06 January 2020

Ghosn ‘fled by bullet train’, Japan vows to bolster borders

  • The 65-year-old executive skipped bail nearly a week ago
  • Japan is still investigating how the fugitive managed to jump bail and flee to Lebanon

TOKYO: New reports emerged Monday on how fugitive former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn jumped bail in Japan, as the country’s justice minister said border controls would be bolstered after the escape.
The 65-year-old executive skipped bail nearly a week ago, fleeing Japan where he was awaiting trial on multiple counts of financial misconduct that he denies.
The details of his escape remain spotty, with Japan saying it is still investigating how he slipped past strict security measures imposed as part of his bail conditions.
Citing people involved in the investigation, Nippon Television Network (NTV) said Monday that Ghosn boarded a “shinkansen” bullet train from Tokyo’s Shinagawa station on December 29.
He got off at a station in western Osaka, arriving around 7:30pm and taking a taxi to a hotel near Kansai Airport, NTV said.
He is thought to have taken a private jet the same day from the airport, bound for Istanbul, where he switched planes and continued to Beirut.
Last week, local media reported Ghosn was caught on security camera leaving his Tokyo home by himself around noon on December 29.
But the exact circumstances of his departure from Japan are still shrouded in mystery.
The justice ministry said it did not have records of Ghosn departing Japan.
“It is believed that he used some wrongful methods to illegally leave the country,” Justice Minister Masako Mori said at a press conference on Monday.
“I have instructed the immigration agency to further tighten the departure process,” she added.




Mystery still surrounds Ghon's escape. (File/Shutterstock) 


The Wall Street Journal has reported that Ghosn was loaded onto the flight from Osaka in a large case for audio equipment, which was later found at the back of the cabin.
The newspaper cited unnamed sources close to the investigation in Turkey as saying that holes had been drilled into the bottom of the container to ensure the businessman could breathe.
Japan’s transport ministry told AFP that luggage checks are not mandatory for private jets.
“Operators of private jets decide if luggage checks are necessary or not while airline operators are obliged to conduct security checks under Japan’s aviation law,” a ministry official told AFP.
“The security checks are carried out to prevent danger such as bombs, and to prevent hijacks,” he said, adding such risks are considered less likely for private jets.
Ghosn, who has French, Brazilian and Lebanese nationalities, was able to enter Lebanon on a French passport, according to airport documents seen by AFP.
A court in Tokyo had allowed Ghosn to keep a second French passport as he needed one to travel inside Japan, a source close to the matter has told AFP.
Japan has launched a probe into the humiliating security lapse and prosecutors said they would “coordinate with the relevant agencies to swiftly and appropriately investigate the matter.”
Ghosn has vowed to give his own account at a hotly awaited press conference in Beirut this week.


Turkey to tightly control social media platforms

Updated 10 April 2020

Turkey to tightly control social media platforms

  • Failure to comply with the requirements could shrink their access by Turkish users by up to 95 percent

ISTANBUL: Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will be legally bound to appoint a formal representative in Turkey under a new draft law that will be brought to the country’s parliament soon.

The bill is initially designed for the government’s fight against the spread of the coronavirus, but it covers clauses about social media restrictions.

According to the experts, if adopted, this bill will pave the way for exercising government pressure on the platforms.

Failure to comply with the requirements could shrink their access by Turkish users by up to 95 percent. The social media platforms are also obliged to share users’ information with the prosecutors’ office when required.

They will also have to execute decisions coming from the criminal courts for “content removal” and/or “access denial” without any exception. Even individuals may apply to state authorities to ask the platforms to remove content. The platforms could be fined up to 1 million Turkish lira if they do not comply with the request within 24 hours.

It is still unclear whether news outlets with social media sites will also have to abide by these requirements.

Last August, the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) was officially granted the authority to regulate and monitor online platforms, including series on digital TV platforms such as Netflix, news broadcasts on YouTube and social media platforms delivering news on a regular basis. Those broadcasting online were obliged to get a license first from RTUK. According to that legislation, overseas companies who broadcast in Turkey on the internet are also required to establish a company and obtain a license.

Dr. Sarphan Uzunoglu, a scholar at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University and editor in chief of NewsLabTurkey.org, said it had long been the wish of the Turkish government to keep Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter — as some of the most-used social networks in the country — under control.

“This new draft that will be brought to the parliament is a concrete step toward making Turkey’s digital sphere more controllable than ever for the government,” he told Arab News.

According to Uzunoglu, it is natural that Twitter, Facebook, Google and others are questioned by governments worldwide due to their financial activities and uncontrolled flow of money worldwide.

“Some responsible governments and politicians always question this shady feature of social networks. However, unfortunately, Turkey is not one of these countries or Turkish politicians aren’t the kind of politicians that think (about) the privacy of individuals. All they want is clearly a person who will be like an ambassador for the brand in their country whom they can get in touch with on a regular basis,” he said.

The bill also requires that all data about Turkish social media users be stored in Turkey.

Uzunoglu thinks that the daily routine of such a representative will not be very different from the life of the US ambassador in the time of crisis between US and Turkey.

“The only difference is, the government will try to keep this person and social network for everything in the platform. So that will be a disaster for both the operation of the social platform and the democracy of the country. And unlike an ambassador, the national law system in Turkey will be imposed on them. So, Facebook or Twitter won’t be different from any other web site active in Turkey,” he said.

Turkey has also increased control over social media during the coronavirus outbreak. More than 400 people have been arrested for “provocative” posts on their social media accounts about the virus.

Turkey has blocked access to social media platforms several times in the recent past, especially after the military deployments to Syria.

As social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter host the remaining free-speech platforms and provide an alternative information flow, Uzunoglu thinks that being forced to give away data about their users will be an attack on individual privacy.

“This definitely shows that the government is living in a completely different reality, or they imagine to live in a completely different world,” he said.

Uzunoglu also drew attention to the problematic timing of the move, especially under the extraordinary conditions caused by COVID-19.

“Just think about the Internet freedom related activism of the early 2010s when people went into the streets for the first time to protect Internet freedom. Comparing it to the self-isolation period that we are experiencing right now, it would be naive to think that it is just coincidental,” he said.