Suraj Case: Chiba prosecutors decide not to indict 10 Immigration officers in whose custody he died


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Hi Blog. Sad news. The Suraj Case, which has been covered in various media reproduced here on, has wound up as predicted: With the Immigration officers getting off with no indictment and the GOJ getting away with murder (if not negligence leading to homicide while in official custody). Even the Japan Times called his death “brutal”. It’s bad enough when you have a criminal justice system where even citizens are victims of “hostage justice”.  It’s another when you can get away with killing somebody during deportation just because they’re foreign.  One more brick in the wall to demonstrate that once the Japanese police get your hands on you as a NJ, you don’t stand a Chinaman’s Chance, be it in Japan’s criminal investigations, incarceration systems, jurisprudence and standards of evidence, criminal court, or civil court afterwards. In a word, disgusting. Arudou Debito


Chiba prosecutors decide not to indict 10 immigration officers over death of Ghanaian man
Mainichi Shimbun July 4, 2012, courtesy of MD

CHIBA — The Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office decided on July 3 not to indict 10 officers of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau on charges of assault and cruelty resulting in a Ghanaian man’s death when they overpowered him aboard an aircraft.

In deciding to drop the case, the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office said, “There is no causal relationship between the action (by the immigration officers) and the death (of the Ghanaian man), and the action was legitimate.”

According to Chiba Prefectural Police and other sources, Ghanaian national Abubakar Awudu Suraji, who had overstayed his visa, became violent when he was taken aboard a plane for deportation at Narita Airport on March 22, 2010. The 45-year-old man passed out when immigration officials tried to restrain him with handcuffs, towels and other means. He was taken to a hospital at the airport but died shortly thereafter. The cause of his death remained unknown as a legal autopsy showed no noticeable bodily injuries.

The man’s Japanese wife filed a complaint with the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office in June 2010, arguing that “there is a high possibility that (her Ghanaian husband) died from a violent assault while being escorted.” In December 2010, the Chiba Prefectural Police sent papers on the case to the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office.

Original Japanese article

強制送還中に死亡:入管警備官10人 不起訴処分に
毎日新聞 2012年07月03日 22時41分




28 comments on “Suraj Case: Chiba prosecutors decide not to indict 10 Immigration officers in whose custody he died

  • Chris Johnson says:

    A terrible tragedy for everyone. HIs wife, family must be devastated. Could they appeal to a higher court, in this case? Do we know if the 10 are still working? Thanks in advance for answers

    — Dunno. I would assume so. Anyway, if prosecutors won’t indict, there’s nothing a criminal court can do. Can take it to civil court, but the Valentine Case is a pretty good indication about how I think that would play out.

  • Chris Johnson says:

    Thanks for answers. If that’s true, as you say, problem seems to lie with prosecution aspect. By Japanese law, could his wife, family and their lawyer charge prosecutors with negligence or dereliction of duty? Perhaps the prosecutors would reason that they don’t have “enough evidence” to formally charge the 10, since prosecutors win most cases. It seems the Tokyo District Court has been more “progressive” (in the view of some foreign defendants) by ruling in favour of detainees in the past. I wonder if supporters of Suraj have a better chance within the Tokyo HC jurisdiction, since apparently he was living in Tokyo before he was detained. Not surprising, perhaps, that they couldn’t win in Chiba, given the history of violent clashes around the building of runways, and the power of authorities who control the airport — a major local employer.

  • In the Netherlands (at least in parts of it) there are special procedures and a special type of prosecuting magistrate for cases involving police misconduct, so as to provide greater public assurance that the government is not biased in its prosecutorial decisions towards police.

    Does anything like this exist in Japan?

    – AFAIK no.

  • Disgusting, although not surprising. The Japanese will defend the indefensible when it comes to their own.

  • Fight Back says:

    Agree with Johnny, although a tragedy and a travesty, this ruling comes as no surprise to anyone. Everyone needs to be aware of this as even small issues with visas etc can lead to events getting out of hand.

  • Chris Johnson says:

    Big news in Toronto right now. Shocking video of 7 police officers taking down a black man playing basketball with his son at the YMCA. Hundreds of comments in Canadian media, outrage in the community, lawsuits and probably inquiries and commissions to come. Meanwhile, Suraj dies in custody, and it’s barely covered in Tokyo media. Imagine if the Suraj incident was videotaped and uploaded on youtube? Would we care then?–james-bishop-suing-toronto-police-and-ymca-over-violent-arrest

  • Anonymous says:

    About Japanese authorities’ fear (or lack of fear) of reprisals from the Supreme Court of Japan for their illegal actions:

    I wonder if Japanese police would ever feel worried that the Supreme Court of Japan will someday penalize them for their illegal action of “suspicion-less I.D. requests, meaning requesting I.D. WITHOUT having any reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has committed a crime (e.g. requesting I.D. WITHOUT having any reasonable grounds to suspect that the person is in Japan illegally – and no, skin color is NOT reasonable grounds to suspect that a person is in Japan illegally, according to the Japanese constitution.)

    I reported before about a brave man who refuses all suspicion-less I.D. requests, and here is the final update: since the officers violated his civil rights by illegally preventing him from continuing on his way, since the officers violated his civil rights by illegally arresting him for practicing his right of declining suspicion-less I.D. requests, the police officers’ insurance company decided to avoid the risk of a multi-million-dollar court award by paying Bressi on June 9th, 2012 the amount of $210,000!

    Usually we don’t get to hear about such successes, because the out-of-court-settlement contract usually requires the person receiving the money to sign a confidentiality clause, but this brave man absolutely refused such a clause, and thus the the police officers’ insurance company gave him the $210,000 WITH the legal ability to report freely to the world about this success. He even posted a scan of the check he received:

    Obviously, this payment means that the police officer’s lawyers looked at the evidence and decided that chances were high that eventually the Supreme Court would financially penalize the illegal “suspicion-less I.D. request” action and the “arrest for declining suspicion-less I.D. request” action to a much higher degree, and thus they decided to simply pay the victim $210,000 out-of-court.

    Suspicion-less I.D. requests are VOLUNTARY. 任意 (nin’i)
    Suspicion-less search requests are VOLUNTARY. 任意 (nin’i)
    Suspicion-less conversation requests are VOLUNTARY. 任意 (nin’i)

    #1 “Please show me YOUR I.D. officer.”
    #2 “Do I have the right to leave now?”
    #3 “If you have no reasonable grounds to suspect a crime,
    I have the right to leave now so notify your supervisor immediately.”

    Repeat these 3 sentences CALMLY (calmly, without disturbing the peace)
    until the officer (or his supervisor, or even his supervisor’s supervisor)
    admits that you do indeed have the right to leave. You have the right to leave.

  • Anonymous says:

    PS – The following is written by a Tōdai Law Graduate:




  • Where is that written section from the Todai law graduate from? I always wondered if there are any books on how to defend yourself against the law and police in Japan in either Japanese or English…

  • Anonymous says:

    @#9 @#10 I simply know that saying “警察法第79条に基づいて公安委員会に苦情を申し立てます” scares police officers into following the law, according to that Tōdai Law Grad.

    What does this have to do with Suraj? Using the techniques above will reduce the chance of you being arrested like Suraj in the first place. If you simply make the Japanese Police Officer show his I.D. (手帳 techou) that makes him accountable for his actions, and then make it clear that you know that stopping to talk with him is entirely voluntary (任意 nin’i), and then make it clear that you have decided to continue walking without being detained (since the Police Duties Law of Japan says that the only time a police officer can even try to stop and question you in the first place is when he has reasonable grounds to suspect that you have committed a crime) you reduce your chance of arrest.

    “Appearing Foreign” is not reasonable grounds to suspect that you have committed a crime.

    folks who have a visa,
    folks who don’t have a visa,
    folks who have never done anything illegal in their life,
    folks who have perhaps done something illegal in their life,
    the SAFEST thing to protect yourself is: photograph the police officers’ I.D. and peacefully demand to leave.

    Most people who end up in the clutches of the Japanese Court System entered because they agreed to answer “street questioning”.
    Don’t want to end up being convicted here in Japan? Don’t allow yourself to be taken down to the police station in the first place.
    Don’t want to be taken to the police station? Don’t give them any quotes to use against you: leave the “street questioning” scene.
    Why answer any question at all, especially the “where are you from” one? Get their I.D. info, peacefully demand to leave. The End.

  • I may well be wrong, but it seems like there are a lot of cases in which foreigners are killed or murdered and the prosecutors either do not prosecute or prosecute for a much lesser offense. I wonder if anybody has any statistics on this. I know I shouldn’t try to see racism everywhere but it is frustrating and can give you the (perhaps wrong) impression that killing of a foreigner is not taken as seriously. I hope I am wrong about this.

  • Anonymous,

    The comments in #8 are only fully applicable to Japanese citizens.
    For non-Japanese, there is also 外国人登録法 第十三条第二項, which states that the police are entitled to ask you to show (提示) them your ID at their will. There are no qualifying conditions except that they too must first show their ID to you first.

    As such, when I am stopped, I first ask them if they are stopping me as 職務質問.
    Nearly always they will say yes, in which case I follow the advise in comment #8 and that usually the end of it.
    On the rare occasion, the office will then try to change their mind and ask you for ID for being a foreigner as per the above law. However, you then remind them that they have already admitted stopping you for 職務質問, so you are able to deny them.

    And yes, as per #8, remaining calm is extremely important. Also, you need to have a fluent or near-fluent Japanese speaking ability.

  • Anonymous says:

    Always a pleasure. You’re one of the serious thinkers here. Great technique you’ve got so far:
    “As such, when I am stopped, I first ask them if they are stopping me as 職務質問.
    Nearly always they will say yes, in which case I follow the advise in comment #8 and that usually the end of it.”

    Now open your mind for some new info that we all should realize and pass along to our fellow gaikokujin:
    The 外国人登録法 第十三条第二項 does have a limiting qualification:
    The 外国人登録法 第十三条第二項 states police can only demand showing the ARC when “in the performance of Police Duties 職務執行”.

    The Police Duties are clearly defined and limited by “The Police Duties Law, Article 2 職務執行 法 第二条”.
    The Police Duties Law states Officers are ONLY able to stop a person in THREE specific cases:
    #1 If the Police Officer makes a reasonable judgment that a crime is being committed.
    #2 If the Police Officer has enough reason to suspect that a person will commit a crime.
    #3 If the person has acknowledged that he knows about a crime that will be committed.

    And according to the Police Law Number 162, this law applies to all individuals in Japan, REGARDLESS of nationality.
    Keisatsu hō dai 162 gō ni yorimasu to, wagakuni no “kojin” ni ate hamarimasu, kokuseki wa kankei arimasen.

    We have been naively thinking that “Police Duties” are some vague, undecided, “whatever the cop feels like doing” thing.
    It turns out that “Police Duties” are 3 concrete, limited, situations, that are clearly listed above in the 職務執行 法 第二条.
    The mere act of demanding ARC without reasonable grounds to suspect a crime is illegal, and thus can be peacefully declined.
    The Japanese police officers who pressure you into assuming their demand is a demand, will later admit it was merely a request.

    Here is a “gaikokujin” who got a Japanese police officer to admit that showing ARC is voluntary:

    Here is another “gaikokujin” who got a Japanese police officer to admit that showing ARC is voluntary:

    So, to bring this back to the topic of this thread, we don’t want to end up like Suraj so we must remember our right to decline.

  • Anonymous #11,

    I remain unconvinced.

    I understand the point that you make, (I think) but I still do not understand what penalties apply to the police if they do NOT follow their rule book.

    Are any penalties likely to apply?

    We have all read instances of where the formal rules governing the treatment of NJ by the police are very different than the actual reality.

    So, while some police may be dissuaded by this (and that is helpful), what of those police who will not be frightened?

    Are there meaningful controls to stop them or punish them, or is it all bluff?

  • To Chris Johnson;

    Uh, you may not want the Bishop case in Toronto to be your flagship example of police brutality. The man was a known felon, drug user, convicted cocaine trafficker, and was trespassing. He is a large, intimidating man who works as a personal trainer, and was known for his brushes with the law. He was asked to leave by the staff, refused. Asked to leave by the police, refused. It’s not a debating society. When the police ask you to leave a building where you are trespassing, you either leave or are made to leave.

    Whether or not the police acted properly, or were a bit excessive, is a matter of debate. But their right, no their duty, to remove him from the premises is not in question.

  • #6 Chris Johnson: “WE” care, but “THEY” not only don’t care, they don’t know. If you told them, they wouldn’t care. That is the problem. This non-crime happened to a non-Japanese, therefore, it is not-important.

    What do you visitors and guests expect? Should Japan try to be more fair? How will that benefit the narrow minded Japanese people who run the country?

    Japan has a long way to go before Japanese guards get prosecuted for killing a brown foreigner while in their custody…

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Ds #16

    Way to apologize dude. You must be so easily intimidated by uniforms.

    There is NO excuse for killing someone whose actions are NOT putting others lives in direct danger. The police and other officials have training for these types of situations, and it is not acceptable to kill someone for saying ‘no, I won’t go’.

  • @Anonymous,

    Thank you for the comments.
    However, at present, it would appear that we are making a fuss about a non-issue.
    As of yesterday (2012/07/09), 外国人登録法 is no longer valid due to the change to 在留カード.
    廃止平成21・7・15・法律 79号(未)(施行=平24年7月9日)

    This is being replaced by the 入管法 and 住民基本台帳法.
    The full texts are below:

    I have not had a chance to completely read through them enough to make further comments at this time, though.
    Perhaps there will be a chance to discuss the finer points of these at a later later here.

  • Jim;

    Not apologizing, no need to get stroppish so easily. My comments were about the non-story from Toronto about the police arresting a dangerous trespasser.

    Regarding the Suraj situation, I agree that there should be an investigation, as there should be any time someone dies while in custody. However, there is also no excuse for Suraj’s behavior, if accounts are to be believed. If you are illegal and get caught, you get deported. Get on the plane and go home. If you resist, you take the chance of getting hurt. Personally, I think it would be easier to just drug people in that case if they are non-compliant and wake them up once the flight is over, but that’s just me.

    Seems the immigration officials aren’t very well trained in restraint techniques. They are used to people complying. Definitely room for improvement in that area.

    — Wow, ds, how underwhelming a criticism can you make (someone died in custody during restraint, oh well, room for improvement), and how heartless an assessment can you make of the homicide (he died, oh well, no excuses — he probably did something to occasion it)?

    Nah, I think you’re just trolling. I think we’ll just drop you into the spam bucket now.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Ds #20

    ‘there is also no excuse for Suraj’s behavior, if accounts are to be believed.’

    ‘IF accounts are to be believed’ seems to be precisely the crux of the matter, wouldn’t you say, since the courts are sending clear messages to the police etc that THEY will always be beyond criticism.

  • @charuzu
    Good point. We can discuss law all day, but none of it means anything if there’s no system in place to force the police to behave. Like I’ve said before, laws don’t matter in Japan unless it’s *you* that’s breaking them.

    What really struck me about the Suraj case in particular was this:

    — In deciding to drop the case, the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office said, “There is no causal relationship between the action (by the immigration officers) and the death (of the Ghanaian man), and the action was legitimate.”

    Since when did prosecutors become judges? I thought a prosecutor’s job was to bring a case to trial if given enough evidence to do so. If they had said “not enough evidence to prosecute”, that would’ve made more sense. But to say “the action was legitimate”, uh… isn’t that something judges decide in trial??

    To not even bring it to trial sends the message: It’s not even worth looking at.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Assuming many people give police and immigration officers free pass by defaulting the suspect and his spouse for attempting to sneak in the ‘hideout’ indefinitely. Even some folks who are usually conscientious to NJ accuse this poor man of giving police and legal authorities more power to curtail the rights of NJ than ever before (i.e., new immigration regulation, effective on 09 July, 2012). What many people overlook in this issue is that this man had been held at the detention center for almost 2 years since he got arrested. You want to blame him for his bad choice? Fine. Go ahead. But that won’t give Japanese police and legal authorities any justification for this type of inhumane treatment driven by long-term incarceration at detention center, regarding that deportation is their end. It won’t give them any excuse for their inability to nab him with an appropriate investigation based on the Police Execution Law long before the year 2000 (NOTE: they had let him walk free for over 20 years with ‘out-of-status’ visa). Simply, it’s a waste of taxpayer’s money, and bad practice of public service. I agree this man had a serious problem, and deserve blame to some extent. But, it is police and legal authority that should be held responsible for the failure of public service. Period.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing those important links.
    Searching within both the 入管法 and 住民基本台帳法 links, the word 警察 doesn’t appear at all: which is good.
    Searching within the 住民基本台帳法 link, the word 提示 appears 17 times: all seem to be non-police related.

    Still, I hope you can see that whenever police try to use the (now void) 外国人登録法 there IS a major limiting Qualifier:

    警察官が 職務執行に当たり 登録証明書の提示を求めた場合には、 これを提示しなければならない。
    Police officers, WHEN EXECUTING THEIR POLICE DUTIES (The 3 legally-defined Duties),
    who request the ARC, in THAT case: it must be shown.

    警察官が 職務執行に当たりではない時 登録証明書の提示を求めた場合には、 これを提示しなくてもいい。
    Police officers, WHEN ACTING OUTSIDE THEIR POLICE DUTIES (The 3 legally-defined Duties),
    who request the ARC, in THIS case: it doesn’t need to be shown.

    Whether you are 外国人 or 日本人, anytime police stop you without reasonable suspicion: they are acting outside their Police Duties.

    The Police Duties are clearly defined and limited by “The Police Duties Law, Article 2 職務執行 法 第二条”.
    The Police Duties Law states Officers are ONLY able to stop a person in THREE specific cases:
    #1 If the Police Officer makes a reasonable judgment that a crime is being committed.
    #2 If the Police Officer has enough reason to suspect that a person will commit a crime.
    #3 If the person has acknowledged that he knows about a crime that will be committed.

    Most people don’t know what The 3 Police Duties are,
    and when we all know The 3 Police Duties we can walk
    without fear of being arrested, imprisoned, or killed.

    The ONLY TIME that a police officer has the LEGAL right
    to stop you at all is when executing The 3 Police Duties,
    and that means he needs Reasonable Suspicion of a Crime.

    Print these 7 sentences, with both Kanji and Rōmaji, and walk with confidence of your rights.

    5.”警察官 職務執行法 第二条 にによりますと、合理的に判断して犯罪犯しの場合だけ 停止させてことできる。”

    1. “Keisatsukan shokumu shikkouhou ni jou i kou no nin’i no shukumu shitsumon de aru koto desu ka?”
    2. “Keisatsu techou kisoku go jou ni motozuite keisatsu techou o teiji sasete kudasai.”
    3. “Shokumu shitsumon wa nin’i dakara, iku kenri arimasu node, mou ittemo ii desu ka?”
    4. “Teishi no wa nin’i desu node, kore ijou shitsukoi nara keisatsu hou dai nanajuukuu jou ni motozuite kouan’iinkai ni kujou o moushitatemasu.”
    5. “Keisatsukan shokumu shikkou hou dai ni jou ni yorimasu to, gouriteki ni handan shite hanzai okashi no baai dake teishi sasete koto dekiru.”
    6. “Gaikokujin demo, gaikokujin tourokuhou yorimasu to, shokumu shikkou ni atari baai dake, touroku shoumeisho o teiji shinakereba naranai.”
    7. “Gouriteki ni handan shite hanzai okashi no baai dewanai no de, shokumu shikkou ni atari baai dewanai no de, mou, ima ittemo ii desu ka?”

    I seriously think that those 7 sentences, in Kanji and Rōmaji, are the most important sentences to carry with you in Japan. (!)
    Please forgive me for posting these 7 sentences on this thread, my only hope is that Suraj’s loved ones can see the usefulness.
    Even though Suraj didn’t have a valid visa, if he had declined the police street stop in the first place, he would be alive and free.

  • Loverilakkuma #25:

    I agree with much of what you say, but I disagree when you say:

    “it is police and legal authority that should be held responsible for the failure of public service. Period.”

    I agree that police and legal authority (I assume that means those in government) bear responsibility.

    However, I also believe that much of the J public also bears responsibility.

    The J government is not an imposed dictatorship on J, and they do have some collective ability to change that government.

    As such, all J who support the ruling parties also bear some responsibility for the actions undertaken by government on their behalf.

    I reject the notion that J who support the ruling parties are free of responsibility for the actions of those ruling parties, and their treatment of NJ.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @ Charazu

    It IS an imposed de facto dictatorship, prolonged by apathy, haoppy shopping, Disneyland imagery and Kawaii as an alternative to the drudgery, and the mindset said dictatorship encourages. It was imposed by the USA after the Korean War started, with war criminals like Shiro Ishii (731)getting off as a bulwark against communism in E. Asia. We all know this.

    Recently America has felt secure enough to allow one clique to oust another (ie the current Govt ousting the LDP, who were not getting the job done, in any case). But as soon as Hatanoyama suggests moving the US bases in Okinawa, Obama and co. found it necessary to destabalize his popularly elected govt and kill that issue.

    I suppose the people could elect in the Japanese Communist Party, which seems the most progressive of all the current parties, but I wonder if this would be allowed? In France and Italy, maybe so, but in Japan?

    MOre to the point what the Japanese people can do is be more civilly disobedient and kill unfair laws by refusing en masse to obey them. This is what happens in the UK or France when a bad law is passed, eg. crash helmets for Sikh motorcyclists, and more dramatically the Poll Tax issue, which effectively ended the reign of Her Majesty Margaret Thatcher. Grannies were going to jail for not paying the tax; well, they could not afford to pay it.

    I would like to see more Japanese people refusing to pay the ridiculous city taxes (now basically uniform as 10% of your salary if you live in either luxourious Hiroo or shitty Sanya). But time and time again I hear people here say it is their “DUTY” to pay. A very deferential attitude and one which plays right into the hands of the post war LDP aim of rolling back the State’s duty to citizens in favour of the pseudo post fascist rebranding “Citizens’ duties tot he State”.

    — We are getting off track.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Hello Debito,
    I was just reading this;

    And thought, ‘wasn’t Mr. Suraj actual on the plane whilst being restrained?’, which he was; ‘became (allegedly) violent when he was taken aboard a plane’.

    Please note in the BBC article, this paragraph;
    ‘The Tokyo Convention emphasises that the plane’s captain is in charge of the safety of the flight and thus decides whether a passenger needs to be restrained. Before landing, the captain must notify the authorities in that country that a person on board is under restraint and of the reasons for such restraint.’

    Did the captain of the flight give testimony to the prosecutors? I would expect immigration authorities at Narita Airport to be aware of something called ‘The Tokyo Convention’, wouldn’t you? Did prosecutors ascertain that immigration officials informed the captain that Mr. Suraj was being restrained on board the aircraft, and that the captain was responsible for that?


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