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Japan Man Gets Retrial after 46 Years in Jail: Iwao Hakamada Becomes Longest-Serving Death Row Inmate

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By Gopi Chandra Kharel | March 27, 2014 8:01 PM EST

Iwao Hakamada in an undated picture released by Kyodo March 27, 2014. (Reuters)
Iwao Hakamada in an undated picture released by Kyodo March 27, 2014. (Reuters)

A Japanese man, who has been on death row for 46 years, has now been granted a retrial by a local court, reported human rights NGO Amnesty International.

Iwao Hakamada was sentenced to death in 1968 for the murder of his boss, the man's wife and their two children. Hakamada, who is now 78, is said to have admitted the crime after 20 days of interrogation. But he had later retracted the confession in court. He said he was forced to confess the crime he never committed because he was severely beaten.

Amnesty International revealed that Japanese courts have finally granted a retrial to the prisoner, who is believed to be longest-serving death row inmate in the world. It added in a statement that the Shizuoka district court granted his latest request for a retrial at a hearing earlier on Thursday. Prosecutors have four days to appeal the court's decision.

Hideko Hakamada (C), sister of death-row inmate Iwao Hakamada, speaks with supporters in front of Shizuoka District Court in Shizuoka, central Japan March 27, 2014 (Reuters)
Hideko Hakamada (C), sister of death-row inmate Iwao Hakamada, speaks with supporters in front of Shizuoka District Court in Shizuoka, central Japan March 27, 2014 (Reuters)

"It would be most callous and unfair of prosecutors to appeal the court's decision. Time is running out for Hakamada to receive the fair trial he was denied more than four decades ago," said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

"If ever there was a case that merits a retrial, this is it. Hakamada was convicted on the basis of a forced confession and there remain unanswered question over recent DNA evidence."

According to his lawyers, recent forensic tests show no match between Hakamada's DNA and samples taken from the clothing the prosecution alleges the murderer wore.

One of the three judges who convicted Hakamada is understood to have publicly stated later that he believes the man is innocent.

"The Japanese authorities should be ashamed of the barbaric treatment Hakamada has received. For more than 45 years he has lived under the constant fear of execution, never knowing form one day to the next if he is going to be put to death. This adds psychological torture to an already cruel and inhumane punishment," Rife added.

Traditionally, Japan's police are known to rely on confessions to prosecute but critics have stated that they are often obtained by force. 

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Iwao Hakamada in an undated picture released by Kyodo March 27, 2014. (Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters / )
Hideko Hakamada (C), sister of death-row inmate Iwao Hakamada, speaks with supporters in front of Shizuoka District Court in Shizuoka, central Japan March 27, 2014 (Reuters)
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