Nissan's fugitive ex-boss, Carlos Ghosn, on Wednesday described his detention conditions in Japan, from which he fled last month in a daring escape, as a "travesty" against human rights and dignity.
Ghosn was defensive as he held a news conference in Beirut — his first appearance since fleeing Japan last month. He said the decision to escape the country, where he was due to stand trial for alleged financial misconduct at the automaker, "was the most difficult of my life."
The former auto industry titan dismissed all allegations against him as untrue, saying "I should never have been arrested in the first place."
"I'm not above the law and I welcome the opportunity for the truth to come out and have my name cleared," he told a packed room of journalists.
Ghosn said he was "interrogated for up eight hours a day without any lawyers present."
Ghosn smuggled himself from Tokyo to Beirut in late December, arriving in the Lebanese capital where he grew up and is regarded by many as a national hero. His news conference comes more than a week after his dramatic escape from Japan ahead of his trial for alleged financial misconduct.
Dozens of local and international journalists gathered outside the press syndicate where he was to hold his news conference, several hours before his scheduled appearance. Lebanese authorities have not made any comments about the news conference and it was not immediately clear whether they intend to summon him for questioning.
Ghosn's daring and improbable escape has perplexed and embarrassed Japanese authorities after he jumped bail and managed to flee the country despite supposedly rigorous surveillance. Japan has issued an arrest warrant for Ghosn's wife Carole, which his spokesman told Reuters is "pathetic." Ghosn has said his wife played no role in his escape.
Hidden in a musical equipment case
Media reports have said that he left his residence alone, met two men at a Tokyo hotel, and then took a bullet train to Osaka before boarding a private jet hidden inside a case for musical equipment. He flew to Istanbul and was then transferred onto another plane bound for Beirut, where he arrived Dec. 30.
The budget for the escape was in the millions of dollars, according to the Wall Street Journal. The planning included advance teams who identified vulnerable airports, with the musical equipment case escaping detection because it was too large to fit in the X-ray machine inside the private-jet lounge of Osaka's Kansai International Airport, the publication reported.
On Wednesday, Tokyo prosecutors raided a Japanese lawyer's office where Ghosn had visited regularly before he fled. Japanese media reports said prosecutors had likely seized the computer to track down how Ghosn escaped and who might have helped him.
Lebanese authorities have said Ghosn entered the country on a legal passport, casting doubt on the possibility they would hand him over to Japan. Lebanon last weekcalled a "red notice"— a non-binding request to law enforcement agencies worldwide that they locate and provisionally arrest a fugitive.
Lebanon and Japan do not have an extradition treaty, and the Interpol notice does not require Lebanon to arrest him.
Ghosn, who is Lebanese and also holds French and Brazilian passports, was expected to go on trial in Tokyo in April. In statements, he has said he fled to avoid "political persecution" by a "rigged Japanese justice system." He also said that he alone organized his departure from Japan and that Carole Ghosn played no role.
On Tuesday, Tokyo prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for Carole Ghosn on suspicion of perjury. That charge is not related to his escape. Lebanon's justice minister said Tuesday that Lebanon has not received any request related to that warrant.
Japanese justice officials acknowledge it's unclear whether the Ghosns can be brought back to Japan to face charges.
Ghosn's former employer, Nissan Motor Co., said it was still pursuing legal action against him despite his escape, adding that Ghosn engaged in serious financial misconduct while leading the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi automotive alliance. Ghosn denies all the charges.