Posted by debito on April 17th, 2008
Hi Blog. Another in the ongoing series re Japan’s judiciary. Retyping from document, sorry for any typos. Only time enough to render English version for now. (And yes, the comma-less sentences, poor syntax, and mediocre writing are in the original; no wonder many Japanese find English hard to read!). Arudou Debito in Sapporo
GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT?
Hiragana Times July 2006, No. 237, pages 25-27
Courtesy of James
At about 2AM on March 1, 2006, James, an American living and working as an English language teacher and his Japanese wife Sachiko were outside on the street near their apartment building in Osaka. That night Sachiko had been out having dinner with her former co-workers. When she arrived home, she thought James was asleep and went out again to go to the corner convenience store to buy some food. James followed her outside as he was aware that that part of Osaka wasn’t safe late at night.
While Sachiko was telling James where she was going, approximately six policemen arrived in two police cars, and two more police were on foot running towards them. “So a total of eight police suddenly surrounded us,” James recalled.
The couple produced proof of their identities. “I immediately began to explain that this was our residence and that I was Sachiko’s husband. The police completely ignored them [sic], and did not listen or care at all,” James said.
James says he believes the large height difference between them (he has a large build and is 6’3″) added to the fact that they were new to the neighborhood and were speaking in English at such an early hour was bound to catch attention, and his assumption is that someone called the police.
James points out that he had not been drinking or arguing and was not acting in a loud or noisy manner. “I never provoked the police at any time,” he says. “I was calm and polite to them. I was never disrepectful to htem.” James was then forced into a police car and the couple were taken to the “T” police station.
The police refused his request for an English interpreter. “They attacked me and were beating, hitting, and kicking me all over my body. They rammed my head into concrete wall, kicked my back, and punched my neck and head area numerous times. Two of them then held me against the wall, while another one began choking my neck with my own necktie. I screamed for help.”
“I THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO KILL ME”
“They all threw me down hard on the floor, and then ordered me to get up and sit on a chair. I was already in great pain all over my body. I held up my hand and said, ‘please help me stand up.’ One of the policemen was just shaking and spitting at me like a crazy person. He became angrier and then he pulled me up by the hair. He then began to hit the back of my head with his fist again. He kept on repeating ‘this is Japanese police system,’ at the same time he was yelling and laughing at me. I gave up all hope. I thought that they were going to kill me. Everything around me became black, I vomited and felt nausea, experienced double-vision, and coughed up blood. I cried for a doctor and a hospital, but they refused my emergency request.”
Did the couple receive an explanation as to why they had been taken into custody? “Sachiko was told that this was just the Japanese police system,” James says. “My wife and I both tried to explain, but they ignored our explanations. This is Japan, and here you are a suspect for the simple fact that you are a non-Japanese. And you are guilty until proven innocent. They can even hold you for three days without even letting you call a lawyer, and they can also lock you up for 23 days without even charging you with a crime.”
APPARENT PATTERN OF ABUSE
James says he still experiences trauma and nightmares due to the attack and has been unable to return to work due to the injuries he received. He also made a point of obtaining a doctor’s medical certificate the day after the ordeal.
To try to redress the situation, the couple has reported the events to the American Consulate, Amnesty International, the United Nations and the Osaka Prefectural Government’s Human Rights department, all of which are monitoring and investigating the case. “It has also been exposed that the same ‘T’ police station has been investigated for similar human righs abuse and violence towards other non-Japanese citizens in the past.’ James says.
James says he asked for the policemen’s names and police ID badge numbers, but they all refused to tell him. “They never even apologized to me, told me my rights, what I was charged with, and they finally never even arrested me. And yet they forcefully detained me and beat me for three hours. They simply tossed us out of the police station at about 5AM. I have been told by numerous organizations that this is a clear violation of the penal code Articles 194 and 195.”
JUSTIFICATION FOR IMMEDIATE ARREST?
James assumes and has been informed by the Osaka Bar Lawyers Assocation that the police were planning that he would retaliate or use violence so that they would then have an excuse and justification to immediately arrest. “I never resisted or did anything to justify their violence. I was a victim of police brutality,” he says.
James believes Japanese police have too much power, and points out that there is really no way to file a complaint within the police department, since they have no internal affairs sections. “So they are judge and juror, and know no one is watching their action, so they are free to do whatever they feel like.”