Japanese man on death row for 57 years will be entitled to new trial | Justice

The Japanese Iwao Hakamada has been waiting for death behind bars for more than half his life. But at 87, the longest-serving man on death row in the world will be tried again.

Hakamada was sentenced to capital punishment in 1966 for allegedly stabbing his boss and his family to death at a soybean processing factory in Shizouka. A former boxer, he confessed to the crime after 20 days of interrogation – during which he was beaten, he later denounced, when he withdrew his confession, according to Amnesty International, which has been trying for several years to give the Japanese man an opportunity to defend himself again. in court.

When he recanted the confession, Hakamada said he was coerced by the police into signing the guilty plea. In the three weeks of intense interrogation he was subjected to, he was allegedly beaten, threatened and forced to confess, he said. In September 1968, he was re-appeared in court, with “questionable” evidence presented.

“Of the 45 documents presented by the prosecution as confessions signed by Hakamada, only one was accepted by the judges as being legitimately signed of his own free will: the other 44 were disregarded. Despite this, he was found guilty of the four murders and sentenced to death”, reads a 2015 text from Amnesty International, a year after Hakamada was temporarily released from prison on the basis of new DNA evidence that opened the door to a retrial.

The new evidence could indicate that whoever investigated the four homicides could have planted evidence incriminating Hakamada. However, the decision to reopen the case was eventually reversed by a court. Now, a new appeal has led the Supreme Court of Japan to ask for a review of the decision, unblocking the new trial of Iwao Hakamada, almost 60 years after he was sentenced to death.

“I’ve been waiting 57 years for this day, and it’s here,” said Hakamada’s sister, Hideko, 90, quoted by the BBC as a “weight finally lifted off her shoulders.”

Amnesty International says the decision “presents a long overdue opportunity to bring justice to Iwao Hakamada, who spent more than half a century on pain of death despite the glaring injustice of the trial that saw him convicted”.

“Hakamada’s conviction was based on a forced ‘confession’, and there are serious doubts about the other evidence used against him. However, at the age of 87, he has still not been given the opportunity to challenge the verdict that kept him under constant threat of the gallows for most of his life.” remember Amnesty.

Japan still maintains the death penalty by hanging. There are about 100 inmates on “death row”, where they can wait several decades for execution, which comes without warning.

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