ISTANBUL – 7 suspects went on demo in Turkey on Friday over their alleged involvement in previous Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn’s spectacular escape from Japan to Lebanon by way of Istanbul at the close of last yr.

Ghosn, at the time a titan of the global automobile marketplace, experienced been arrested in Japan in late 2018 and billed with underreporting his wage and working with firm cash for own uses, prices he denies.

The ousted chairman of the alliance of Renault, Nissan Motor Co and Mitsubishi Motors Corp experienced been awaiting his demo under household arrest in Japan when he manufactured a spectacular escape in December to Beirut, his childhood home.

An executive from Turkish personal jet operator MNG Jet and four pilots were being detained in early January shortly following Ghosn’s escape and billed with migrant smuggling, a sentence carrying a most sentence of 8 yrs in jail.

They appeared in white protective overalls, masks and gloves as a evaluate against the coronavirus, as the court docket in Istanbul commenced hearing their defence. Two flight attendants, billed with failing to report a crime – a charge carrying a sentence of up to a single yr – were being also there.

The initial defendant to speak was a pilot on the Osaka-Istanbul flight, Noyan Pasin, who denied the charge.

Prosecutors, in their indictment, experienced reported MNG Jet functions supervisor Okan Kosemen – who is a single of the 7 on demo – realized prior to the Osaka flight that Ghosn would be on board and would transfer to Beirut.

Kosemen, who also pleaded not guilty, reported in court docket on Friday he was only advised by way of mobile phone about Ghosn’s existence mid-flight from Osaka and cooperated under duress.

The prosecution reported Kosemen used WhatsApp to connect with pilots prior to, in the course of and following the Osaka-Istanbul flight, working with phrases like “luggage” and “consignment” to refer to Ghosn.

The five other suspects also deny the prices, according to the indictment.

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According to the indictment, Kosemen advised prosecutors a value of $a hundred seventy five,000 was agreed for the flight with a Lebanese broker and paid into MNG Jet’s financial institution account. At the time of the incident, MNG Jet reported Kosemen acted without the need of the awareness of the firm and it experienced submitted a legal criticism for the illegal use of its plane.

Japan has formally requested the United States to extradite two Us residents – a previous Green Beret and his son – who also stand accused of helping Ghosn flee Japan. They were being arrested in Massachusetts in May.

The Ghosn saga has shaken the global automobile marketplace, at a single issue jeopardising the Renault-Nissan alliance which he masterminded, and elevated scrutiny of Japan’s judicial technique.

Renault and Nissan have struggled to get well profitability pursuing his tenure, in the course of which both of those automakers say Ghosn focused too a lot on growing profits and sector share, main to falling margins.

Turkish police detained the suspects on Jan. two and an interior ministry official was cited at the time as stating Turkish border police were being not notified about Ghosn’s arrival, and neither his entry nor his exit were being registered.

(Extra reporting by Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo Producing by Daren Butler Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Pravin Char)