A Japanese man who has been on death row for nearly half a century will face a new trial.
Iwao Hakamada, now 87, is the world’s oldest prisoner on death row, according to Amnesty International. He was convicted in 1968 of killing his boss, his wife and two children in 1966.
The former professional boxer confessed to the crime after 20 days of questioning, during which he said he had been beaten. Later, he retracted his confession.
Human rights groups criticize the Japanese judicial system. Critics say Japan relies too heavily on confessions, which they say are often extracted by police force.
In the new trial, the judges will decide whether DNA from bloodstains found on the clothes the killer was allegedly wearing matches those found on Hakamada.
His lawyers say the evidence is forged.
Iwao Hakamada was arrested and accused of robbing and murdering his employer and his family at the miso processing plant in Shizuoka, west of Tokyo, in 1966. They were found stabbed to death after a fire.
In 2014, Hakamada was released and entitled to a new trial by a district court, which concluded that investigators may have planted evidence. Then the Tokyo High Court overturned the ruling.
After appeal, however, Supreme Court justices ordered the Supreme Court to reconsider, which led to the decision to conduct a new trial.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for 57 years and it has arrived,” said Hakamada’s sister, Hideko, 90, who has spent years campaigning on her brother’s behalf.
“A weight has finally been lifted off my shoulders.”
Iwao Hakamada’s family says his mental health has deteriorated after decades in prison.
Japan and the United States are the only major democracies among the developed countries that still use the death penalty.
Amnesty International hailed the decision to hold a new trial as “a long overdue opportunity for justice”.
Hideki Nakagawa, the group’s director in Japan, said that “Hakamada’s conviction was based on a forced ‘confession’ and there are serious doubts about the other evidence used against him.”
The new trial process could take years if appealed, and lawyers have protested the system.
Several lawyers in Japan praised the ruling, but urged plaintiffs to “quickly begin the retrial process without making a special appeal to the Supreme Court.”
“We cannot delay any longer in addressing the case of Mr. Hakamada, who is 87 years old and has mental and physical problems after 47 years of physical restraint,” said Motogi, president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. Kobayashi.
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