Buraku Liberation News July 1999 No.109

Tokyo High Court dismisses Sayama Retrial Appeal. 
Defense Lawyers Lodge Protest.

On July 9 the Tokyo High Court dismissed a second request for a retrial of the Sayama case. Immediately after the announcement, the BLL released a statement denouncing the unjust and surprising dismissal. The BLL held a press conference that evening, joined by Mr. Kazuo Ishikawa, who received a life sentence for the slaying of a high school girl in 1963, and his lawyers group, denouncing the high court for ignoring the public opinion regarding a fair trial. They expressed their decision to continue fighting in order to clear the false charges against Mr. Ishikawa by gaining a retrial.

Mr. Ishikawa said at the conference, "I was surprised to learn of the sudden dismissal decided by Mr. Takagi, the presiding judge. I will continue fighting until I am proved innocent, even if it takes some decades."

On July 12 the lawyers lodged a protest before the court. The BLL decided to hold a rally on August 3 in protest.

Almost 13 years have passed since the second retrial appeal was filed. The high court dismissed the appeal without looking into the evidence, despite more than 1.2 million of citizens' signatures, demanding fact-finding and a fair trial, having been submitted to the court. 

In the second retrial application, Ishikawa's defense team submitted to the Tokyo High Court a report containing new evidence proving his innocence, including an expert's testimony that an extortion letter sent to the family of the victim was not written by Mr. Ishikawa.

The report also contains testimony by a former investigator casting doubt on the circumstances surrounding the finding of the victim's fountain pen which police claimed to have found at Mr. Ishikawa's home.
The defense team also submitted a report on more evidence on June 10, explaining facts that contradict Mr. Ishikawa's confession ; the extortion letter bore marks made by work gloves.

On June 22, they met presiding judge Toshio Takagi to explain the new evidence and requested that the court look into the facts.
In his decision, the judge dismissed the evidence, saying that handwriting style could change depending on circumstances, feelings and the context of a letter. He also dismissed the former investigator's testimony that the victim's fountain pen was not found during the initial search of Ishikawa's house, saying that the investigator's memory cannot be trusted since so many years have passed since the incident.

The Court ignored a recommendation of the UN Human Rights Committee.

Mr. Ishikawa, 60, born and brought up in a Buraku community, Sayama City, Saitama Prefecture, was falsely arrested and charged in 1963 with the kidnap-murder of a high school girl. He was allegedly forced by the police to falsely confess that he was "guilty". As a result, he was sentenced to death in the first ruling and to life imprisonment in 1974 by the Tokyo High Court. An appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected in 1977. Subsequently a retrial appeal to the high court while in prison was filed. However, the appeal was dismissed in 1980 by the Tokyo High Court and in 1985 by the Supreme Court. The second retrial appeal was filed before the Tokyo High Court in 1986. He was released on parole in December 1994.

The Sayama Case lawyers' group repeatedly demanded that the Tokyo High Public Prosecutor's Office disclose a list of evidence and a record of questioning. 
However, this has not yet been carried out. Although public prosecutors acknowledged the existence of the evidence they were being asked to disclose, they have refused to do so.

The Public Prosecutor's Office explains that they do not want to disclose the evidence due to a concern for privacy. However, there is no grounds for the Prosecutor's Office not to release the evidence to the lawyers who promised not to make it public.

In November 1998, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended in its Concluding Observations, that the State Party (Japan) ensure that its law and practice enable the defense to have access to all relevant material in order that the right of defense is not hampered, after considering the fourth periodic report of the Japanese government concerning the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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