Influential Japanese Politician Goes on Trial

Posted October 6th, 2011 at 5:05 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The man who masterminded Japan's ruling party's historic victory in 2009 went on trial Thursday on charges of violating fund-raising laws.

Ichiro Ozawa pleaded not guilty to accusations that he knowingly falsified reports to hide a $5.2 million loan he made to his political fund-raising body to facilitate a land deal in 2004. Three former aides were convicted on related charges last week.

The 69-year-old Ozawa denounced the investigation as illegal and urged the court to end the proceedings immediately.

The trial is expected to last until April.

Prosecutors initially decided not to prosecute Ozawa, but they changed course after a panel of ordinary citizens called for his indictment.

The veteran politician, nicknamed “the shadow shogun” for his behind-the-scenes deal-making, was forced to step down as head of the Democratic Party of Japan before the 2009 elections due to the fund-raising scandal.

He fell short in a bid to regain his leadership post last year to then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and his choice to succeed Kan last month lost the race for DPJ party leadership to Yoshihiko Noda.

Despite the scandal, Ozawa has retained a loyal core of supporters within the DPJ.