Saturday, March 29, 2014.
Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
I don’t know why any Japanese should be moaning over the case of recently freed death row inmate Iwao Hakamada (“Hakamada fends off prosecutors,” and the editorial “Epic miscarriage of justice,” Japan Times, Saturday, March 29, 2014). I know the terrible facts: Nakamada’s 1968 conviction for murder ought never to have occurred, the confirmation and appeals of his sentence ought to have progressed much faster and DNA testing that may now exonerate him ought to have been done long ago. Subsequently he lost 48 years of his life in prison, and he might have been innocent all the time. If he had been executed he would have been an innocent victim and no more inquiry of his case would have been pursued.
I know that Japan needs a more public and in-depth discussion of its justice system, the death penalty and its protocols, etc. But the depressing fact is that the Japanese system is operating exactly as it is meant to function: wring confessions out of suspects, then prolong their appeals until they go mad in prison and finally execute them after dementia sets in, like a kind of benevolent euthanasia, and then don’t talk about it. That’s how the system here is supposed to work, isn’t it? Debating capital punishment and calling for transparency, openness and reform and moaning about things are foreigners’ job, not Japanese.
Early reports are that Mr. Nakamada’s time in prison left him with diabetes and possible early dementia. I can point out that Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara (Chizuo Matsumoto) is also said to be mentally incapacitated in prison. Many other long-term internees are probably in similar conditions. Even Crown Princess Masako was driven to mental illness by the normal functioning of the Imperial Household Agency. Japanese ought to be right proud of themselves and their society. That’s what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants, isn’t it, a nation of proud citizens. Well done Japan!