A US federal judge has temporarily halted the extradition of two US citizens accused of orchestrating Carlos Ghosn’s daring escape from Japan last year, shortly after the US government approved their removal.
Lawyers for Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, and his son Peter, said in a court filing on Thursday they had been informed by Japanese media that the men were set to be removed from the US within hours.
The US state department had approved the extradition on Tuesday and informed lawyers for the men the following day, according to the filing, which said they were due to be sent to Japan on a 1pm Thursday flight.
A federal judge in Boston, Indira Talwani, issued an emergency order just 17 minutes before that time, halting their removal until she could fully review the request.
The developments were the latest twist in a saga centred on Mr Ghosn, the former Nissan chief executive, which has stretched across multiple countries since his sudden downfall two years ago.
Mr Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on allegations of fraud linked to his pay at Nissan. He fled the country a little over a year later on a private jet in an escape that included hiding in a large music equipment box.
He is currently in Lebanon and has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Japanese authorities issued an arrest warrant for the Taylors for allegedly helping Mr Ghosn flee the country. They were arrested in the US earlier this year and were denied bail, with US prosecutors arguing that the Taylors were experts in fleeing justice.
“This distinguished former member of the US Army Special Forces and his son did not commit any crime and are being pursued by Japan in an effort to save face after the departure of Carlos Ghosn from their country,” the Taylors’ lawyers said in a statement.
Japan’s justice system — dubbed by some as a “hostage system” — has been criticised for its use of prolonged pre-trial detention even for non-violent offenders and allowing interrogations of suspects without their lawyers present. Mr Ghosn had complained about his treatment by Japanese authorities, who have extradition treaties only with the US and South Korea, in part because of international concerns about the country’s legal system.
Another federal judge last month said the Taylors could be extradited, passing the final decision to the state department in accordance with US extradition procedures.
Roger Wicker, the Republican senator from Mississippi, said he was “outraged” that the state department had approved Japan’s request to extradite the pair.
“This former Special Forces member and his son will not be treated fairly,” Mr Wicker warned on Twitter, adding that Japan’s “hostage justice system” was “not interested in justice, just retribution”.
Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, was in Indonesia on Thursday during a tour of Asia. Stephen Biegun, the deputy secretary of state, authorised the extradition, lawyers for the Taylors said.
“As a matter of longstanding policy, the department of state does not comment on pending extradition requests,” a spokesperson said.