Muneo Suzuki’s Life in Prison, as Told by the Man Himself (Plus advice for Horie)

I’ve kept this story on the back burner for a while, but I think you’ll still get a kick out of it.

Remember Muneo Suzuki, everyone’s favorite “department store of suspicion”? Well, after being convicted of bribery charges, leaving the Diet and LDP in disgrace, and then staging a major comeback in 2005 by forming a new party and getting reelected to the Lower House, Muneo wasted no time in punching back against those who ousted him from power just 2 years earlier. Soon after his reelection, Suzuki began flooding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with official questions surrounding their questionable dealings (Such as this one accusing the MOFA of overpaying their overseas staff with juicy housing allowances). He’s abused the “memoranda on questions” system so much (known as the “paper bomb” among Japanese politicos), in fact, that the ruling LDP has revived debate on whether to eliminate it altogether.

Now Suzuki, who has the dubious distinction of being the only serving Diet member to be presently fighting a felony conviction, was not involved in the Horie scandal. Nonetheless, the former jailbird can offer unique insight into Horie’s state of mind as he faces imprisonment and now arraignment. ZAKZAK was there, of course, in this Jan. 26 interview, which I have paraphrased below:

Muneo tells of his 437-day stay in a 5m2 solitary confinement cell: No clock, no view of the outside


Takafumi Horie is being held in the Tokyo Detention Center. Lower House Diet member Muneo Suzuki, in a Jan 26 interview with Yukan Fuji, told us of the center’s “coarse” living conditions. Horie denied his charges at first at the special investigation section of the Tokyo Regional Prosecutor, but he has now begun testimony that admits some of the facts. Perhaps he has broken in the face of the humiliating life within the cell walls.

Solitary Confinement

“The solitary confinement cell is in a 6.4m2 space with 1.6m2 used for a toilet and wash basin that are out in the open. Your living space is 4.8m2.”

That is Muneo Suzuki looking back on his life on the inside. His painful mental state at the time may have resurfaced because his face was bright red, and he seemed to be seriously fighting something making him well up with tears.

The first thing that happened at the detention center was “body inspection.”

“They take your mobile phone and datebook, make you get naked and search to see whether you have brought in something dangerous.”

The building of the detention center was rebuilt in March, while Muneo was imprisoned, so he went from the old building, where there was a window with a view of the outside, to the new one where he could not see the outside at all.

“There was no clock on the wall, so I had no sense of day or night.”

Until he fell asleep, he would lean against the wall, unable to fully stretch out, and on top of that he could not read newspapers or watch TV and could not listen to the radio freely. Muneo was banned from outside contact, so he was also banned from exchanging letters.

He admitted, “Since I was a person living on information, the hardest thing was for no information to be coming in.”

Meals were rice, miso soup, and one side dish. While Muneo says, “It was at least better than the meals from when I was an impoverished child,” will the food live up to Horie’s discriminating tastes?

A Battle of Nerves

In Muneo’s case, there were three interrogations by prosecutors per day: in the morning, afternoon, and after dinner. Though he tried to shake things up with “naive murmurs,” the prosecutors led him along based on the scenario they created.

Muneo point out, “Horie’s associates were arrested, so they will become psychologically unstable, making the record of interrogation just as the prosecutors want it. Moreover, they will probably wage a battle of nerves against Horie by saying ‘this guy’s saying this!'” He advises Horie to “answer truthfully. Since I spoke truthfully, I got this chance to come back.”

Takebe and Takenaka’s Responsibility

During last year’s general election, LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe enthusiastically held up Horie as “my brother.” After the Livedoor scandal was discovered, he has been actively maintaining “distance” from him, but Muneo points out, “At the press conference after the raid started, Takebe acted like Horie was a stranger, saying, ‘I want to see the investigating authorities carry out a strict and impartial investigation.’ I thought those were some stone cold politics.” He emphasized, “The image was that rich people are the golden boys of reform, but I think that this is an opportunity for people to eventually have a sense that the values of backbreaking work and equitable distribution are important.”

Furthermore, he exhorted, “It’s not good that [the LDP] ran a person in an election who sent securities markets into a panic and ‘endorsed’ money worship. Takebe and MIC Minister Takenaka should properly apologize to the people.”

ZAKZAK 2006/01/27