A wily judge who is allegedly the central figure in a Byzantine plot to frame former Premier Takeo Miki and sabotage investigation here into the Lockheed payoff scandal has once again eluded Japanese justice.
Assistant Judge Shiro Kito, 43, ignored a summons this week to appear before a parliamentary court that is empowered to remove him from office. While the 14 impeachment court members fiddled irritably with 500 pages of testimony, the impenitent Kito called a press conference to denounce the trial as a "witch hunt."
The complex tale of intrigue began late on August night last year when a telephone caller who introduced himself as the government's prosecutor-general asked then-Premier Miki's intervention in the Lockheed bribery accusations against former Premier Kakuei Tanaka. Miki refused to be drawn into an abuse of his powers.
The mass-circulation newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun splashed the transcript of the conversation, which had been tape-recorded, across the front page of its Oct. 22 edition. Kito allegedly had tried to plant the tape with Yomiuri as evidence of Miki's malfeasance, but the newspaper labeled the tape a fraud and accused the judge of impersonating the notion's chief prosecutor.
Yomiuri claimed that Kito admitted making tha call. The judge has denied the charge and several investigations have failed to establish the caller's identity.
Japan's 15 Supreme Cout judges questioned Kito at length without making much progress, then transferred the investigatin to Parliament. When Kito appeared in Parliament to testify, he refused to take the oath on the grounds that he was afraid of being mistakenly indicated.
The case was referred to the impeachment court, where the charge is that Kito has harmed the judiciary's prestige by passing the tape to a newspaper. Hearings are scheduled to resume Friday, in Kito's absence if necessary, the court chairman said.
Kito is known for strongly rightist views. According to one theory, the plot was engineered out of fears that Miki's vigorous investigation of the Lockheed scandal would aid the COmmunist Party in Japan.