Men charged in Ghosn escape plot ask US State Department to halt extradition -letter

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WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - An American father and son accused of helping former Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee trial in Japan have asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to halt their impending extradition there.

On Saturday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency request by lawyers for U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, to pause a lower court order that cleared the way for them to be extradited.

A Feb. 3 letter to Blinken seen by Reuters on Wednesday from the Taylors' lawyers said "we do not believe there is any good reason to surrender these two American citizens."

The Justice Department declined to comment. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter suggested the charges "are explained by the government of Japan's desire to save face, or at least to be perceived to be doing something to address their embarrassment."

The letter asked at a minimum that the extradition be delayed until the men received their second COVID-19 vaccine doses.

The Taylors' lawyers argue their clients could not be prosecuted in Japan for helping someone "bail jump" and that, if extradited, they faced the prospect of relentless interrogations and torture.

Tokyo's Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hiroshi Yamamoto told a regular press briefing that the investigation would begin "in the usual manner" once the men were handed over.

"At this stage, however, we can't give a timetable for how that will proceed and when a trial would begin."

Once authorities in the United States and Japan were ready to proceed with the extradition, Japanese prosecutors would travel to pick the Taylors up and return them to Japan, likely on a commercial flight, Yamamoto added.

A federal appeals court in Boston declined to prevent the Taylors' extradition while they appealed lower court rulings. The U.S. State Department approved their extradition in October. read more

The Taylors were arrested in May at Japan's request after being charged with helping Ghosn flee trial in Japan. On Dec. 29, 2019, the former executive escaped by hiding in a box and on a private jet before reaching his childhood home, Lebanon, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he had engaged in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan's financial statements. Ghosn denies wrongdoing.

Prosecutors said the elder Taylor, a 60-year-old private security specialist, and Peter Taylor, 27, received $1.3 million for their services.

The Taylors, who have been held without bail since their arrests, waged a months-long campaign to press their case against extradition in the courts, media, State Department and White House with the aid of high-powered lawyers and lobbyists.

Reporting by David Shepardson and Nate Raymond Editing by Chris Reese

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