today's Pick
'Longest-serving' death row inmate granted retrialPublish Date: Mar 27, 2014
'Longest-serving' death row inmate granted retrial
  • mail
  • img
This file picture taken on May 20, 2013 shows Hideko Hakamada, sister of former boxer Iwao Hakamada who has been on death row in Japan for 48 years, holding a picture of her young brother Iwao during an interview outside the Tokyo Detention House in Tokyo. PHOTO/AFP
newvision

TOKYO - A man believed to be the world's longest-serving death row inmate was Thursday granted a retrial in Japan over multiple murders in 1966, decades after doubts emerged about his guilt.

Shizuoka District Court decided to "start the retrial over the case" of Iwao Hakamada, 78, who was convicted for the grisly murder of his boss and the man's family, a court official said.

Delivering his ruling, presiding judge Hiroaki Murayama cited possible planting of evidence by investigators to win a conviction as they sought to bring closure to a crime that shocked the country.

"There is possibility that (key pieces of) evidence have been fabricated by investigative bodies," Murayama said in his decision, according to Jiji Press.

The judge also ordered Hakamada's release, saying continued confinement "goes against justice".

Apart from the United States, Japan is the only major industrialised democracy to carry out capital punishment, a practice that has led to repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

Hakamada is the sixth person since the end of World War II to receive a retrial after having a death sentence confirmed, and his case will bolster opponents of capital punishment, including rights group Amnesty, which has just launched its annual report on the practice.

Shizuoka prosecutors told Japanese media that they are undecided on whether to appeal the decision, according to national broadcaster NHK.

Hakamada initially denied accusations that he robbed and killed his boss, the man's wife and two children before setting their house ablaze.

But the former boxer, who worked for a bean paste maker, later confessed following what he subsequently claimed was a brutal police interrogation that included beatings.

He retracted his confession, but to no avail, and the supreme court confirmed his death sentence in 1980.

Doubts over evidence

Prosecutors and courts had used blood-stained clothes, which emerged a year after the crime and his arrest, as key evidence to convict Hakamada.

The clothes did not fit him, his supporters said. The blood stains appeared too vivid for evidence that was discovered a year after the crime. Later DNA tests found no link between Hakamada, the clothes and the blood stains, his supporters said.

But the now-frail Hakamada has remained in solitary confinement on death row, regardless.

His supporters and some lawyers, including the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, have loudly voiced their doubts about evidence, the police investigations and the judicial logic that led to the conviction.

Even one of the judges who originally sentenced Hakamada to death in 1968 has said he was never convinced of the man's guilt but could not sway his judicial colleagues who out-voted him.

Japan has a conviction rate of around 99 percent and claims of heavy-handed police interrogations persist under a long-held belief that a confession is the gold standard of guilt.

The decision came as Amnesty International issued its annual review of reported executions worldwide, which showed Japan killed eight inmates in 2013, the ninth-largest national tally in the world.

Hakamada's sister Hideko, 81, who has passionately campaigned for a retrial for decades, thanked dozens of supporters who gathered in front of the court house.

"I want to free him as soon as possible," she told a press conference held shortly after the court announced its decision.

"I want to tell him, 'You did well. You will finally be free'," she said.

Hakamada seems to have developed psychological illnesses after decades in solitary confinement, Hideko told AFP in an interview last year.

"What I am worried about most is Iwao's health. If you put someone in jail for 47 years, it's too much to expect them to stay sane," Hideko said in the interview.

Amnesty, which has championed Hakamada's cause and says he is the world's longest-serving death row detainee, called on prosecutors to respect the court's decision.

"It would be most callous and unfair of prosecutors to appeal the court's decision," said Roseann Rife, the organisation's East Asia research director.

"Time is running out for Hakamada to receive the fair trial he was denied more than four decades ago," she said.

AFP

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Men also develop breast cancer
WHILE rare, breast cancer does occur in men and is often diagnosed at a later age and stage than in women, experts say...
Lwakataka moved to Masaka Prison amid security fears
PRISON authorities at Kalisizo Government Prison have relocated rally ace Ponsiano Lwakataka to Masaka Central Prison for safety reasons...
Lugbara now want a king
FOUND in West Nile and parts of eastern DR Congo, the Lugbara never had a monarchy. As an egalitarian society, their traditional and cultural organisations never surpassed the clan level...
State House not facilitating youth meet at Namboole
State House has clarified that it is not facilitating any youth seminar at Namboole....
Teenage Nigerian weightlifter fails doping test
NIGERIAN teenage weightlifter Chika Amalaha has been provisionally suspended from the Commonwealth Games after testing positive in a doping test...
President Yoweri Museveni has advised policy makers not to confuse family planning for population control....
Should private schools and institutions be given tax exemption?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter