Japanese ambassador asks Lebanon for more cooperation over Ghosn

Lebanese president Michel Aoun with Japan's Ambassador to Lebanon Takeshi Okubo in the presidential palace, in Baabdaon Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 08 January 2020

Japanese ambassador asks Lebanon for more cooperation over Ghosn

  • Ex-Nissan boss says he has proof of govt-backed ‘coup’
  • Japan issues arrest warrant against wife

BEIRUT: Less than 24 hours before Carlos Ghosn held his press conference in Beirut, the Japanese Ambassador to Lebanon Takeshi Okubo asked President Michel Aoun for “more cooperation” to “avoid negative repercussions on our friendly relations.”

The former chairman of the Renault-Nissan Group board of directors took refuge in Beirut on Dec. 30 after he left Japan illegally, where he was under house arrest.

Ghosn announced at the time that he “intends to speak freely to the press and is no longer hostage to a biased Japanese judicial system, where guilt is assumed.”

He said that he “did not escape justice, but rather freed myself from political injustice and persecution. Finally, I can freely communicate with the media, which is what I will do.”

The visit of Okubo on the eve of the press conference comes after the Japanese authorities sent an international arrest warrant last week to arrest Ghosn. Lebanon received the Interpol warrant and referred it to the judiciary.

The meeting between Aoun and Okubo was attended by both the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs in the caretaker government, Salim Jreissati, and the Director General of General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.

Presidential media adviser Rafiq Shalala told Arab News that the Japanese envoy “stressed the importance of Lebanese cooperation in the Ghosn file.”

Okubo said: “The discussion dealt with historical bilateral relations and strong bonds of friendship between the two countries in various fields. We raised the issue of Ghosn and expressed our view on it. We said that the government and people of Japan are very concerned about the issue, especially in terms of his way out of Japan and his entry into Lebanon. I asked the president of the republic for more cooperation in this regard in order to avoid negative repercussions on our friendly relations, especially as I make intensive efforts to preserve the relations between the two peoples and the two countries.”

Ghosn is scheduled to hold his press conference at 3 p.m. on Wednesday in the headquarters of the Lebanese Press Syndicate. 

“Last time Carlos Ghosn announced a press conference and got re-arrested. This time, the day before he is announced to speak out freely for the first time, they issued an arrest warrant for his wife Carole Ghosn,” a spokeswoman for Ghosn said.

The organizers of the event told Arab News that “the number of journalists invited to attend the press conference amounted to about 150, including a small number of Japanese media personnel, while the rest are from foreign and local media.”

Citing an interview with Ghosn, Fox Business reported that he said he has “actual evidence” and documents to show there was a Japanese government-backed coup to “take him out.” He plans to identify those he believes responsible, the broadcaster said.

On the eve of the press conference, Lebanon’s caretaker Justice Minister, Albert Sarhan, reiterated that Ghosn is a Lebanese citizen and has the right to be treated on this basis.

Sarhan said that Lebanon “has not yet received any file related to the arrest warrant for Ghosn’s wife, Carole Ghosn.”

Last time Ghosn announced a press conference and got re-arrested. This time, the day before he is announced to speak out freely for the first time, they issued an arrest warrant for his wife.

Spokesman for Carlos Ghosn

Japanese media had reported on Tuesday that “Japan’s prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Carole Ghosn, accusing her of false testimony.” The National News Agency (official news of Lebanon) confirmed that Carole Ghosn is “currently in Lebanon.”

Sarhan told the National News Agency that “the public prosecution received the red notice issued by the Interpol office in Japan related to the Ghosn case, and it will proceed with the required action in the light of it.”

Nissan said Ghosn’s flight from Japan would not affect its policy of holding him responsible for “serious misconduct.”

“The company will continue to take appropriate legal action to hold Ghosn accountable for the harm that his misconduct has caused to Nissan,” the automaker said in a statement.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, on Tuesday, described Ghosn’s escape to Beirut as “regrettable” and said Tokyo had asked Lebanon for help, although he declined to say what exactly Japan had asked of Lebanon.

“It’s necessary to carefully consider the legal systems of both countries,” he told a news conference.

Meanwhile, Nissan Motor Co. has strengthened a taskforce of senior officials. “Now that he has escaped, he can say anything he wants and will keep throwing mud at us until people prove him otherwise,” one company executive said. “The more sympathy he gets from the media and general public, the stronger his leverage over the Lebanese government to protect him.”

The Nissan taskforce was set up shortly after Ghosn’s arrest to deal with “anything Ghosn-related,” as one source put it — a testament to the significance of a man who forged the company’s alliance with French carmaker Renault and presided over it for almost two decades.

The taskforce is led by Chief Executive Makoto Uchida and has recently been reinforced with the inclusion of former acting CEO Yasuhiro Yamauchi and former senior executive Hitoshi Kawaguchi, the sources said.

Both former executives were previously close allies of Ghosn and while they stepped down in a recent management shakeup they remain employed at Nissan as advisers.

Trump slams governors as ‘weak,’ urges crackdown on protests

Updated 4 min 5 sec ago

Trump slams governors as ‘weak,’ urges crackdown on protests

  • Donald Trump: Most of you are weak – you have to arrest people
  • Demonstrations have turned violent in several cities, with looting and mayhem

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Monday derided many governors as “weak” and demanded tougher crackdowns on burning and stealing among some demonstrations in the aftermath of another night of violent protests in dozens of American cities.
Trump spoke to governors on a video teleconference that also included law enforcement and national security officials, telling the state leaders they “have to get much tougher.”
“Most of you are weak,” Trump said. “You have to arrest people.”
The days of protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. The demonstrations turned violent in several cities, with looting and mayhem, and fires ignited in historic park Lafayette Park across from the White House.
The president urged the governors to deploy the National Guard, which he credited for helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis. He demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced a spasm of violence, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
“You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again,” said Trump. “We’re doing it in Washington, D.C. We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before.”
The president told the governors they were making themselves “look like fools” for not calling up more of the National Guard as a show for force on city streets.
Attorney General Bill Barr, who was also on the call, told governors that a joint terrorist task force would be used to track agitators and urged local officials to “dominate” the streets and control, not react to crowds, and urged them to “go after troublemakers.”
Trump’s angry exhortations at the nation’s governors came after a night of escalating violence, images of fires and looting and clashes with police filling the nation’s airwaves and overshadowing the largely peaceful protests. The protests grew so heated Friday night that the Secret Service rushed the president to an underground bunker previously used during terrorist attacks.
On Monday, Trump also spoke of trying to criminalize flag-burning. The Supreme Court has conservative new members since it last ruled on that issue, and Trump said that “I think it’s time to review that again.”
He continued his effort to project strength, using a series of inflammatory tweets and delivering partisan attacks during a time of national crisis.
As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.
Trump did not appear in public on Sunday and was not scheduled to on Monday either.
The demonstrations in Washington appeared to catch officers by surprise. They sparked one of the highest alerts at the White House complex since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Secret Service protocol would call for all those under the agency’s protection to be in the underground shelter.
Trump has told advisers he worries about his safety, while both privately and publicly praising the work of the Secret Service.
Demonstrators returned Sunday afternoon, facing off against police at Lafayette Park into the evening. Trump retweeted a message from a conservative commentator encouraging authorities to respond with greater force.
“This isn’t going to stop until the good guys are willing to use overwhelming force against the bad guys,” Buck Sexton wrote in a message amplified by the president.
In recent days security at the White House has been reinforced by the National Guard and additional personnel from the Secret Service and the US Park Police.
The Justice Department deployed members of the US Marshals Service and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration to supplement National Guard troops outside the White House, according to a senior Justice Department official. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.