It is difficult to credit that a man has been on death row in Japan for a total of 46 years. Some people reading this may not have been born when he was incarcerated. Hakamada Iwao is to be retried because the key evidence against him – blood stained clothing – has been tested and the DNA is not his. UPDATE: it looks as though Hakamada has been released (28 March).
The Salisbury group has been campaigning for Iwao to be released and many people have signed our petitions outside the Library and at other events. Taken with the release of Ashtiana in Iran (see earlier post) this demonstrates that campaigning can make a difference.
The situation in Japan for people on death row is not at all civilised and come as a surprise for a country that gives every impression of being a modern democracy. The prisoner does not know from one day to the next when they are to be hanged. The average time on death row is 7 years and 11 months. Conditions on death row are, according to Amnesty ‘a harsh regime of solitary confinement in toilet sized cells.’ Exercise is only allowed twice a week and three times in summer.
Japan secures convictions after long hours of interrogation with no lawyers present and with physical mistreatment regularly used. Secrecy surrounds the process and until recently, no announcement was made of an execution having taken place, only an annual figure issued. There is little protest made within Japan about the treatment of prisoners or of the whole process which is contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Human Rights.
Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty in all cases. Once again, an unsatisfactory legal process and fresh evidence, reveals the risk that an innocent man would by now be dead.