3rd Quarterly, 2006 No.141

The Sayama Case

On May 23, 1963, Kazuo Ishikawa, a man of Buraku origin from the town of Sayama, north of Tokyo, was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. The sentence was later commuted to life with hard labor, and confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1977. After 32 years in prison, Ishikawa was released on probation in 1994. Since his conviction, three appeals for retrial have been submitted in an effort to clear his name. The latest, filed on May 23, 2006, offers a rich body of new evidence supporting Ishikawa’s innocence. His defenders remain optimistic that, this time, the courts will deliver Ishikawa a fair and just trial. On the heels of the third appeal, IMADR, in solidarity with the Buraku Liberation League and the Citizen’s Support Group for the Sayama Case, has launched the Sayama International Solidarity Campaign to help lobby for change in the criminal justice system and fight anti-Buraku discrimination. (Information quoted from IMADR website (http://www.imadr.org/sayama/). Please Join the Campaign by signing online petition supporting Ishikawa. (http://www.petitiononline.com/sayama/)

The Right to Boast

Last year, a campaign began to collect one million signatures for a petition requesting a retrial of the Sayama Case. As of February 15, 2007, about 700,000 signatures have been collected. Mr. and Mrs. Ishikawa, who have been traveling around the country for the campaign were interviewed by the Liberation News of the Buraku Liberation League.

Q: What were the most significant events for you in 2006?

Kazuo Ishikawa: There were many. In Nagano I met one elderly woman whom I call “mom.” She has worked tirelessly for the Sayama struggle over the past 36 years. She is now over 80 years old. She can no longer join activities for the Sayama struggle due to her age, but she used to travel 9 or 10 hours by bus to attend the court hearings. I was very touched.

Sachiko Ishikawa: We were on a platform at Kyoto Station on our way to Shiga prefecture when we were approached by a station attendant who saw the Sayama campaign pin on our jackets. He said, “I was a member of a Buraku liberation study group set up in our company by the union. Look, I am also wearing the pin.” I was very impressed.

Sachiko and Kazuo at the interviewMany people participated in a Sayama case workshop we ran in Sendai. During the Q&A session, a man raised his hand and said, “I learned about the Sayama case 30 years ago. Back then, I frequented attended the rallies and gatherings held in Tokyo. I also met you (Mr. Ishikawa) and your father. Later, I moved to Sendai, and became less connected with the Sayama case. However, I felt a strong desire to join the meeting today and came along with my wife. I am very happy to see that you are in good health, Mr. Ishikawa.” On the same evening, his wife sent us an e-mail, “After the event, we walked to the station together singing the Sayama song and the liberation song. The Sayama struggle was our original starting point.”

Some time later, she sent another e-mail stating, “Before we were married, my husband lived in Tokyo and I lived in Sendai. We lived a long way from each other, but the Sayama rallies provided us with an opportunity to meet. For this reason, I always looked forward to the rallies. Please forgive me telling you this story as it may be somewhat improper, but Mr. Ishikawa was our matchmaker.” I was moved to hear that. The Sayama case has had this kind of impact on people’s lives. People learned and grew through the struggle. In Hyogo, people organized a touring rally through seven locations last year. Many elderly people joined the rally and told us, “I used to go to the rallies in the past. Thank you Mr. Ishikawa for not giving up.” Kazuo received a letter from an 86-year-old woman who wrote, “Now I have pain in my legs so cannot go to Tokyo, but I am happy to have met you in our town. Please take good care of yourself.” She enclosed 10,000 yen in her letter. As an elderly Buraku woman, it is possible that she does not receive a pension. For her, 10,000 yen would be a lot of money, but she sent it to Kazuo anyway.

Kazuo: We held a rally in Sayama City on October 31, 2005 (an important day for the Sayama struggle as it was on the same day in 1974 that the Tokyo High Court upheld the guilty verdict against Kazuo). The city mayor joined the rally and gave an address. In 2006, people in Sayama again organized the 10.31 rally, in which many people participated.

Sachiko: At the rally, we stood on the street distributing flyers to people and asking for their signatures on the petition for retrial. Some people came to us and said, “I was a classmate with Mr. Ishikawa,” or “I knew him when he was a child. He was gentle, and not the kind of person who could have done such a dreadful thing.” In Aomori, a Sayama rally was held in November for the first time in Tohoku region. Mr. Satoshi Kamata, a reporter and the secretary-general of the Citizen’s Support Group for the Sayama Case, said, “Today is an historic day for Aomori. Those who are here today represent the conscience of Aomori.”

Q: The Sayama struggle is very long one. The criminal scene changes every year, and many of those who were involved in the case are now dying.

Kazuo: The owner of the pig farm recently died. He was supposed to be interviewed by the defense team regarding the fountain-pen [evidence]. If he were alive, he could have given the team his testimony. His death was very regrettable.

Sachiko: The conditions surrounding the scene continue to change rapidly. Those who gave testimonies or stood before the bar, such as the ex-investigator, are ageing. We want the authorities to conduct fact-finding investigations as soon as possible while people involved in the case are still alive and before the issues surrounding the scene change completely. We also want the mass-media to cover the case. The Sayama Case is not an event that occurred only in the past, but one which is continuing to occur. Kazuo Ishikawa is alive and stands against the false accusation he has long suffered from. It would not be surprising if the same thing suddenly happened to somebody else. However, we will never willingly allow it to happen again.

Q: Recently, the Fundamental Law of Education and the Juvenile Law have been amended. What are your opinions on this?

Sachiko: Yes, these revisions may cause the emergence of a second or a third Kazuo Ishikawa by the state. The state needs only a few elites and wants to produce millions of simple unthinking laborers who will not raise their voices. Thus, they aim to make many Kazuo Ishikawas and exploit them. Under the revised laws, I am afraid we will have many children who cannot go to school. What will happen then? My brother and I wanted to go to a university, but we were not able to do so. I still regret it. Kazuo, too, if he had had academic ability even at the fifth or sixth primary school level, may not have been made out to be a criminal. That is also why I want him to persevere.

The present authorities do not like to see people standing up for human rights. They want to destroy such movements. Those who want to have a military, equip it with nuclear weapons and enter into war, take advantage of the structure of discrimination. That’s why the BLL is currently under attack. Under these circumstances, the Sayama struggle faces many challenges. Discrimination is still here and is taking more severe forms. But I believe that people will gain the strength to fight back.

I really want the million signatures drive to succeed. The signatures will demonstrate how concerned people are about the Sayama case. “Judge, look! People are watching you! You cannot be irresponsible.”

Kazuo: The drive to acquire a million signatures is a decisive battle. I think the court and prosecutors are watching it. When we get a million signatures, they will become aware that the entire nation is following this case. If we fail to present the signatures, they will underestimate our struggle. I want to achieve this goal by any means.

Sachiko: I am also determined to carry it through. I have written letters asking for signatures to those who are not yet members of local Sayama citizens’ groups, and have received good responses from them. They have written letters to their acquaintances asking for signatures. There are many people who are continuing to do everything they can for the Sayama case and who have been involved throughout the 40-year-struggle. Kazuo Ishikawa learned this while he was in prison where he drew strength from their support.

I was particularly moved by the actions of the village of Mitsue in Nara Prefecture. It is a small village with a population of only 2,400, but since last August they have collected signatures from 3,000 people. They carry petition papers with them wherever they go. When they came to Sayama to join the rally, they stayed in a hotel where they asked for signatures from the hotel staff. I was greatly encouraged by them and am very thankful for their efforts.

We Will Fight Until the End

Kazuo: This year is the final round. I particularly want all judges to visit the crime scene. By exposing themselves to the scene, judges will understand how the story was fabricated through forcing my confession. A retrial is salvation for innocent persons. In the Sayama case, we have submitted much new evidence, but over the past 32 years the court has not once conducted a fact-finding investigation. Why? The authorities may be most afraid of being forced to admit the false charge and discriminatory judgments they made. But, unless they admit these things, the false charge will never be cleared. As this unfair and unjust judgment was a form of crime committed by the authorities, based on Buraku discrimination, the court is very reluctant to challenge the decision. If this were a mere false charge not involving Buraku discrimination, I would have already been found innocent long ago due to the fact that we have submitted sufficient evidence. Buraku discrimination has hampered this from occurring. Even after the false charge is cleared, we should continue our denunciation struggle against the Terao Judgment (made on October 31, 1974). I will continue the October 31 struggle until my final hour.

We believe that the 3rd request for a retrial will be the final one. We want to finish with the 3rd request and earn the right to boast.

| Back | Home |