BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon has exclusive jurisdiction over Lebanese in the country, its president said on Monday, appearing to rebuff a visiting Japanese minister who said it was “obvious and natural” that ousted ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn should stand trial in Japan.
Ghosn fled Japan to Lebanon, his childhood home, in December as he awaited trial on charges of under-reporting earnings, breach of trust and misappropriation of company funds, all of which he denies.
“We believe it is obvious and natural for Ghosn to stand trial in Japan and this view has been communicated to the Lebanese government,” Japan’s deputy justice minister Hiroyuki Yoshiie said in Beirut after meetings with Lebanese leaders.
“And we agreed to cooperate on that,” he told reporters, declining to give details of how Lebanon had agreed to cooperate.
A Lebanese presidency statement noted Yoshiie’s request for cooperation over Ghosn but did not say how Lebanon had responded.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun noted “that the Lebanese judiciary is sovereign and has exclusive jurisdiction over Lebanese nationals residing on Lebanese soil, without that meaning the exclusive right to prosecution”, the statement said.
Aoun told Yoshiie that Lebanon and Japan had no judicial cooperation or extradition treaty, and that Ghosn had entered Lebanon legally through Beirut airport.
Lebanon had sent numerous correspondence to Japan over Ghosn “since his arrest and his questioning more than a year ago, without these correspondence receiving any official response”, Aoun said.
Ghosn was questioned in Lebanon in January over an Interpol warrant and faces a travel ban. Ghosn has said he will cooperate fully with the Lebanese judicial process.
Ghosn’s lawyer said at the time of his questioning he was “very comfortable” with legal proceedings in Lebanon.
Ghosn has said he had “zero chance” of a fair trial in Japan. Japan has described that as an unfounded accusation.
(Reporting by Eric Knecht and Tom Perry; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alison Williams and Mark Potter)