Monday, 27 Mar 2023

‘World’s longest-serving death row lag’ granted retrial 55 years after sentence

The world’s longest serving death row lag has been given a retrial 55 years after he was handed a death sentence for the of a murder family.

Tokyo’s High Court ordered a retrial in the case of 87-year-old former boxer Iwao Hakamada on Monday (March 13) after he said he confessed under duress to the murder of his old boss, the man’s wife and their two sons.

Iwao’s sister Hideko, who has campaigned for her brother’s release for the last five decades, said: “I was waiting for this day for 57 years and it has come.

READ MORE: Death Row inmate called his execution 'murder of an innocent man' in last words

“Finally a weight has been lifted from my shoulders,” the 90-year-old added, the MailOnline reported.

Iwao was sentenced to death in 1968 and has spent the last five decades on death row fighting the confession after he claimed that he only confessed because Japan’s police brutally beat him during interrogations.

Subsequent attempts to retract his confession failed, with Japan’s Supreme Court confirming the guilty verdict in 1980.

After a brutal legal battle, a district court in the city of Shizuoka granted a retrial in 2014, finding that police could have planted evidence against Iwao’s favour.

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But Tokyo's High Court overturned the lower court ruling just four years later, leading to the case being sent to the Supreme Court on appeal.

Judges of the country’s highest court ruled in 2020 that the Tokyo High Court must reconsider its decision to overturn the lower court’s decision.

Supporters of the world’s longest serving death row inmate, a record which was confirmed by Guinness in 2014, say that the nearly 50 years of detention, most of which was in solitary confinement with the constant threat of execution looming over him, have taken a heavy toll on Iwao.

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Since death sentences in Japan can be carried out at just a few hours' notice, his supporters said he would have spent much of his time in solitary confinement not knowing which day would be his last.

Hideaki Nakagawa, director of Amnesty International Japan, said that the country’s prosecutors “must not appeal against today's ruling and prolong the limbo Hakamada has been in since his 'temporary release' nine years ago.”

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