Friday, March 28, 2014

Japan releases world’s longest serving death row inmate because evidence that put him behind bars for 45 YEARS was probably made up

A Japanese court has ordered the release of the world’s longest serving death row inmate because the evidence used against him was likely made up.

Iwao Hakamada, 78, a former professional boxer convicted of the 1966 murder of a family, has spent the last 45 years behind bars on death row, a Guinness World Record – including 30 years in solitary confinement waiting to die.

The court ordered a retrial for Mr Hakamada - who was sentenced to death in 1968 but not executed because of a lengthy appeals process - although the prosecution has four days to decide whether it will appeal the decision.

According to local media, Mr Hakamada was released from Tokyo Detention House for the first time in decades at around 5pm today, Japanese time. Accompanied by his sister, Mr Hakamada, in a yellow shirt, made his way slowly out of the court to a car before being driven away.

Presiding judge Hiroaki Murayama said he was concerned that investigators could have planted evidence to win a conviction as they sought to bring closure to a crime that had shocked the country.

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

The court said today that DNA analysis obtained by Mr Hakamada's lawyers suggested that investigators had fabricated evidence.

Blood stains detected on five pieces of clothing, which investigators said were worn by the culprit during the crime, did not match the DNA of Hakamada, and trousers that prosecutors submitted as evidence were too small for Hakamada and did not fit when he tried them on.

Shizuoka District deputy chief prosecutor Takashi Nishitani said the ruling was unanticipated and that prosecutors would discuss whether to appeal to a higher court.

It took 27 years for the Supreme Court to deny his first appeal for a retrial. He filed a second appeal in 2008, and the court finally ruled in his favour today.

There has long been speculation he was innocent, and in 2007 one of the three judges who originally convicted him publicly declared he had thought Mr Hakamada was innocent.

Mr Hakamada initially denied accusations that he robbed and killed his boss, the man's wife and their 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.

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

But the now-frail Mr 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 the evidence, the police investigations and the judicial logic that led to the conviction.

Even one of the judges who originally sentenced Mr 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 per cent and claims of heavy-handed police interrogations persist under a long-held belief that a confession is the gold standard of guilt.

The decision to grant Mr Hakamada a retrial 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.

Amnesty, which has championed Mr 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.

‘For more than 45 years he has lived under the constant fear of execution, never knowing from one day to the next if he is going to be put to death. This adds psychological torture to an already cruel and inhumane punishment.

‘It would be most callous and unfair of prosecutors to appeal the court’s decision. Time is running out for Hakamada to receive the fair trial he was denied more than four decades ago.

'If ever there was a case that merits a retrial, this is it. Hakamada was convicted on the basis of a forced confession and there remain unanswered questions over recent DNA evidence.’

In an interview last year, Hideko Hakamada, who has spent decades speaking out on behalf of her brother's plight, said she was worried about the mental state of Mr Hakamada, who now 'talks nonsense'

Mr 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.

Mr 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,’ his sister said in the interview.

Thursday's ruling underscores Japan's much-criticised closed interrogations, which rely heavily on self-confession.

Mr Hakamada had confessed in a closed interrogation.

Original report here




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