45 Years of Solitary Confinement

By on October 8, 2013 in Associations

Iwao Picture

1936, March 10, A man named Iwao Hakamada was born.

1966, August 18, Hakamada was arrested for the murder of 4 people.

1968, September 11, the Shizuoka District Court sentenced Hakamada to death.

1980, November 19, Hakamada was to be put to death. A loop hole was found in the evidence.

Hakamada Iwao, 77 years old, has been on death row in solitary confinement for 45 years and is officially the world’s longest serving death row inmate.

Hakamada Iwao; a former Japanese professional boxer, father, brother and husband was convicted for killing a family of 4. He was found guilty for stabbing an employ, soybean-paste company executive, and killing his family in 1966. Hakamada allegedly set fire to the house with the family still inside and robbed them of about 200,000 ¥ (13,000 SEK). However previous loop holes in the evidence of the crime scene as well as new evidence could prove Hakamada’s innocence.

Hakamada was intensively interrogated under a system called daiyo kangoku (“substitute prison”) – there are no rules controlling the length of interrogations, which last up to 12 hours a day; sessions are not recorded and no lawyers are present. Methods routinely used to obtain “confessions,” include intimidation, beating, sleep deprivation, questioning from early morning till late at night, and making the suspect conform to a fixed position for long periods of time. Hakamada said he was beaten and threatened by police officers into signing the confession. He has repudiated his confession, maintaining his innocence.

On March 14th 2012 a new blood sample was taken from Hakamada and did not match the blood of the attacker on a T-shirt he was supposedly wearing during the attack.

Japan is the only other major industrialized democracy to carry out capital punishment next to the United States. The death penalty in Japan is statutory punishment for murder and treason and between 1946 and 1993 the Japanese courts sentenced 766 people to death, 608 of whom were executed. Execution in Japan is by hanging.

There are currently approximately 134 death-row inmates in Japan that conform to an austere existence – confined to their cell with no contact between other inmates, limited daily exercise and exceptional allowance of television. These prisoners get notification of their impending death only hours in advance and their families are apprised after the execution.

In 2007 one of the three judges that convicted Hakamada in 1968, Norimichi Kumamoto, to death sentence; publicly announced his support. Testifying that he always believed Hakamada was innocent and failed to persuade the other two judges. Kumamoto resigned from his position in protest the year after Hakamada’s trial. Kumamoto sought permission to visit Hakamada, and although this was denied – Kumamoto said “I pray for his exoneration every day”.

During these past 47 years of detainment Hakamada has written 5,000 letters and journal entries to his loved ones. During the early years he spent his paper and pen convincing his family and friends of his innocence. In one letter written to his son he wrote “I will prove to you that your dad never killed anybody, and it is the police who know it best and it is the judges who feel sorry. I will break this iron chain and return to you.”

“What I am worried about most is Iwao’s health. If you put someone in jail for 47 years, it’s too much to expect them to stay sane,” – Hideko Hakamada, Iwao’s 80 year old sister said. He has refused to receive monthly visits from her since 2010 and “talks nonsense” says Hideko Hakamada. A psychiatric review was performed by a Dr. Nakajima who confirmed that Hakamada was in a “state of insanity” – unable to maintain a conversation and with the complete loss of understanding over the word execution. Since he himself was unfit to petition for re-trial his family has been allowed to do so.

Can you go a day without your cellphone, KG students?

How about a week without your computer and TV? A month without your family there for your everyday or the comfort of your own bed? A year without any contact with your best friends or a fika session with your grandmother and grandfather? Can you imagine spending 47 years of your life in prison, remembering when your sister came to you one day to tell you your mother and father had passed away, and you hadn’t seen them in 20 years?

Amnesty International is an organization that works to help those who have been condemned of human rights. If you support our mission or think this kind of human treatment is unethical and needs to be set right come to the entrance of the Cafeteria or look for a person with an Amnesty shirt; on October 10th. Help us by signing a petition for a chance at a just trial for this man. With the evidence found in 2012, Hakamada Iwao has the right to a re-trial but we need YOUR help.

It takes 1 pen and 1 person.

  1. 40-year death-row inmate’s retrial nixed | The Japan Times. 2013. 40-year death-row inmate’s retrial nixed | The Japan Times. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2008/03/26/news/40-year-death-row-inmates-retrial-nixed/#.Uk7BglCw08k. [Accessed 04 October 2013].
  2. Ex-judge denied visit to inmate | The Japan Times. 2013. Ex-judge denied visit to inmate | The Japan Times. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2007/07/03/news/ex-judge-denied-visit-to-inmate/#.Uk7BhFCw08k. [Accessed 04 October 2013].
  3. 2013. [ONLINE] Available at: http://hakamada-saishin.org/hakamada-saishin.org-hakamadaiwao-letter/hakamadaiwao-letter.html. [Accessed 04 October 2013].
  4. Japanese man is Guinness record holder for longest time on death row – The Japan Daily Press. 2013. Japanese man is Guinness record holder for longest time on death row – The Japan Daily Press. [ONLINE] Available at: http://japandailypress.com/japanese-man-is-guinness-record-holder-for-longest-time-on-death-row-0926673/. [Accessed 04 October 2013].