From Lebanon, Ghosn defiant against Japan's justice system

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Journalists stand outside of the house of ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. Tokyo prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant Tuesday for the wife of Nissan's former chairman, Ghosn, on suspicion of perjury, adding to the couple's legal troubles in the country where he once was revered as a star executive. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

BEIRUT – Nissan's fugitive ex-boss Carlos Ghosn made his first public appearance since being smuggled out of Japan , saying Wednesday he fled a “nightmare” that would not end and vowed to defend his name wherever he can get a fair trial.

Ghosn spoke to a room packed with journalists for more than two hours in the Lebanese capital, where he arrived last week after jumping $14 million bail despite supposedly rigorous surveillance — a bold and improbable escape that embarrassed Japanese authorities and has allowed him to evade trial on charges of financial misconduct.

Combative, spirited, and at times rambling, he described conditions of detention in Japan that made him feel “dead ... like an animal” in a country where he asserted he had “zero chance” of a fair trial.

“For the first time since this nightmare began, I can defend myself, speak freely and answer your questions,” Ghosn said. “I didn't run from justice, I left Japan because I wanted justice."

Japanese officials, who were quiet in the aftermath of his escape during a long holiday break, spoke out quickly after Ghosn's dramatic news conference. Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said whether Ghosn would be extradited was Lebanon's decision but that Japan would cooperate closely with international organizations "so that Japan’s criminal justice system can be operated appropriately.”

Justice Minister Masako Mori said Ghosn's comments about Japan's criminal justice system were unfounded and she wanted to prevent his spreading an “erroneous” understanding abroad. She said most of his criticisms were “abstract, unclear of its intention, or baseless" and “none of his claims can justify the fact he fled Japan illegally.”

And Hiroto Saikawa, Ghosn’s successor at Nissan, told Japanese media that Ghosn's claim of a plotted coup against him “does not make any sense.” Saikawa resigned last year after allegations related to dubious income surfaced against him. He has not been charged.

With big gestures and a five-part slide presentation, Ghosn brought his case to the global media in a performance that at times resembled a corporate presentation. His one thought before fleeing, he said: “You are going to die in Japan or you are going to get out.”