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Former Auto Executive Carlos Ghosn Holds First Press Conference Since Fleeing Japan

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

From a leading car executive to an international fugitive, Carlos Ghosn, the former head of Nissan, is speaking to reporters for the first time since his bold escape to Lebanon from Japan, where he had been held and accused of financial crimes. Ghosn refused to address the many myths around his departure, like whether he boarded his jet in a box. Rather, he wanted to talk about why he had to escape Japan, claiming to have been persecuted there. NPR's Deborah Amos joins us from Beirut, where he held the press conference.

Hi, Deb.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: Sounds like a theatrical event - walk us through what happened.

AMOS: Oh, yeah. Carlos Ghosn decided the court of public opinion was a better bet than the Japanese justice system. For hours, he fielded questions in four languages from international journalists. Most of the Japanese that have been camped outside his house were barred, but there was at least one Japanese journalist who got in the question. Ghosn talked about what he said was brutal treatment by Japanese prosecutors. He said they tried to break him by denying him any communication with his wife for nine months, except for two hours in the presence of a lawyer.

SHAPIRO: What else did he say about the time he spent in jail?

AMOS: He spent a lot of time describing his incarceration. He said he was treated as if he was guilty as soon as he was arrested. And here's what he said in Beirut.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARLOS GHOSN: One hundred thirty days in prison, solitary confinement, tiny cell without window, light day and night, interrogated days and night up to eight hours, obviously without the presence of a lawyer.

AMOS: You know, the 65-year-old said he was afraid he would die in Japan before his trial was over.

SHAPIRO: Why does he think he was prosecuted?

AMOS: He described a plot by Nissan executives. He said they wanted to oust him. They were angry over his plan to put two major car companies, Nissan and Renault - he was running both of them - under, like, a holding company. They were against it. They gave evidence against him, which led to his arrest in 2018 on charges of serious financial wrongdoing. Carlos Ghosn has lived in Japan for 17 years. He was a big corporate star in Japan for reviving Nissan. There was even a comic book about him. But that all collapsed when he was arrested, and he addressed that in the news conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GHOSN: Why am I being treated like a terrorist in Japan, like somebody who's going to hurt other people? What did I do to deserve this treatment? That's what I don't understand.

AMOS: You know, he was asked a lot about this dramatic escape. And he said he wouldn't talk about it because it could endanger people. But he did acknowledge the international fascination when he said he did not have a contract with Netflix.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Have Japanese officials responded to his charges?

AMOS: Yes, very quickly. Soon after he finished, Tokyo prosecutors released a statement. They said his claims were categorically false and contrary to fact, and his one-sided criticism is totally unacceptable.

SHAPIRO: What does he plan to do now that he's in Lebanon?

AMOS: He's stuck here. There's an international warrant for his arrest. Lebanon doesn't have an extradition treaty with Japan. Ghosn says he wants to prove his innocence. He says he can do it in Lebanon. He has access to documents, and he says he's willing to be tried in Lebanon or France or even in Brazil. He is a citizen in all three countries.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Deborah Amos speaking with us from Beirut.

Thanks, Deb.

AMOS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.