Americans in Japanese prison in Ghosn escape seek to go home

FILE - This image from security camera video shows Michael L. Taylor, center, and George-Antoine Zayek at passport control at Istanbul Airport in Turkey on Dec. 30, 2019. Two Americans, Taylor and his son Peter, imprisoned in Japan for helping former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn avoid trial and escape to Lebanon are hoping to serve the rest of their time in the U.S. (DHA via AP, File) (Uncredited)

TOKYO – Two Americans imprisoned in Japan for helping former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn avoid trial and escape to Lebanon are hoping to serve the rest of their time in the U.S.

The Boston-based attorney for Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor, Paul Kelly, said Thursday that the elder man was suffering from serious back pain and frostbite.

The U.S. Justice Department in October requested the Taylors, who were convicted in the same trial, be transferred to a U.S. prison.

“It’s not been an easy time for them, between the extreme cold and the isolation,” Kelly told The Associated Press.

“Japan has not acted on the transfer issue at all. If Japan were to grant the transfer, then Michael and Peter would be literally taken immediately out of Japan and brought back to the United States,” he said.

Japan’s Justice Ministry must agree for the transfer to be carried out. The ministry had no immediate comment.

Ghosn fled to Lebanon in late 2019, hiding in a music instrument box aboard a private jet.

Japanese prisons lack Western-style heating, air-conditioning or beds. Inmates get a mattress that’s rolled out at night. Japanese authorities say their prisons meet humanitarian standards.

Michael and Peter Taylor were convicted in Tokyo District Court in July for their roles in helping Ghosn escape Japan for Lebanon, the country of his ancestry. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Taylor, 61, was sentenced to two years in prison. Peter Taylor, 29, was accused of arranging the escape and sentenced to 20 months in prison. Since he is athletic and younger, he is in better shape than his father, Kelly said.

In their trial, they said they had been misled and wanted to save Ghosn from an unfair system, believing Ghosn could not expect a fair trial. Japan's justice system has been long criticized by human rights advocates.

The Taylors were extradited from the U.S. in February 2021, after spending nine months in detention. They were kept in solitary confinement in Japan while awaiting their verdict. That is fairly standard in Japan for suspects not given bail. But they were not given credit for the time spent before they were sentenced.

The Taylors’ family members have not been able to visit or telephone them. They have only been able to meet with their attorneys and U.S. Embassy officials.

Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 and charged with under-reporting his compensation and of breach of trust in misusing Nissan money for personal gain, such as fancy homes, a yacht and lavish parties. He says he is innocent.

Another American, former senior Nissan Motor Co. executive Greg Kelly, recently returned home to the U.S. after being cleared of nearly all charges related to Ghosn’s compensation. Kelly says he is innocent and is appealing. He is not required to stay in Japan while the Tokyo High Court hears an appeal.

Tokyo prosecutors, who demanded two years in prison for Kelly, also are considering an appeal, spokesman and Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hiroshi Morimoto said.

Ghosn was a superstar for two decades at Nissan's helm. Kelly’s trial has highlighted discontent at the Japanese automaker over what was perceived as its lesser position in the alliance with French partner Renault.


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter