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The determined Australian military prosecutor was Captain Robert Cooper (Bryan Brown), assisted by Lt. The defense counsel was Shinji Matsugae (Sokyu Fujita).
It was a difficult case, because there were no surviving POWs who could testify (not even a 4-man crew on an unarmed reconnaissance plane that was shot down), the camp records had disappeared, and the defendants uniformly denied the charges.
During World War II, Ambon Island in Indonesia (known as the Dutch East Indies), a small island just north of Australia, was the location of the Japanese Tan Tai POW camp holding about 1,100 Australian prisoners (known as 'prisoners of the sun').
By 1945, the numbers had dropped to about 300, due to cruel and abusive treatment by Japanese captors.
Verdict: Takahashi was returned to the island in the custody of an American officer and military observer Maj.
Beckett (Terry O'Quinn), who didn't want to convict Takahashi, who had already been promised a post-war job in Tokyo.
Sabich was chosen to lead the investigation - an awkward position since Polhemus had recently been his ex-lover, but had dumped him for Sabich's boss, prosecuting DA Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy).
Then, a mass grave was discovered with the bodies of many missing Australian POWs, who were massacred (bayoneted and beheaded).An Australian War Crimes Tribunal was scheduled, to try 91 Japanese officers and soldiers, including sly Vice Admiral Baron Takahashi (George Takei), the main commanding officer (Oxford-educated), and the savage head of the prison camp Captain Ikeuchi (Tetsu Watanabe).Ikeuchi suicidally and ritualistically committed hari-kari before his execution, while Takahashi escaped punishment.This crime mystery thriller began with the news of the brutal rape and murder of Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi) in her apartment - she was the pretty colleague-assistant of chief deputy DA Rusty Sabich (Harrison Ford).In the first of three separate trials, Takahashi declared ignorance of the atrocities, and blamed the camp's treatment of POWs on Ikeuchi. Then, Ikeuchi testified that he had no recollection of the mass killings ("I know nothing of any executions! Then, a break came when the grave site of the four beheaded airmen was discovered. As a witness against Ikeuchi, he also testified that he had been ordered by Takahashi to kill one of the airman - he had been misled about an alleged court-martial of the prisoner. Shimada (Yuichiro Senga) claimed that both Takahashi and Ikeuchi participated in (or knew about) the mass executions.
Eyewitness evidence of Ikeuchi's involvement came when Private Jimmy Fenton (John Polson), an ailing POW about to die, testified about the brutal tortures and executions. Tanaka was declared guilty and sentenced to death (by firing squad) by the tribunal.