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  • Japan Times on Suraj Case: Wife of Ghanian who died while being deported demands info on cause

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on April 21st, 2010

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    Hi Blog.  As I reported last week, the FCCJ had a press conference yesterday on the Suraj Case, where a Ghanian man died while being deported last March.  Details on the cause of death are unclear, but Immigration acknowledges that handcuffs were used, and a towel in Suraj’s mouth were involved.

    What I find noteworthy is not only the circumstances (which allegedly, according to the Suraj group press release, involves other NJ deaths in Immigration custody), but also the courts’ reasoning when overruling a stay of deportation:
    =================================
    Japan Times: “In February 2008, the Tokyo District Court ruled the deportation order be waived. But in March 2009, the Tokyo High Court repealed the district court’s ruling on grounds the couple was childless and the wife was economically independent…”
    =================================

    So if they had children and she was a dependent housewife, then he could have stayed in Japan?  Their marriage counts for nothing otherwise?  Not sure I get it.

    Article follows. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    The Japan Times Wednesday, April 21, 2010
    Wife presses for details in death of deportee (excerpt)
    By MINORU MATSUTANI Staff writer

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100421a4.html

    The Japanese wife of a Ghanaian who died last month while he was being deported for overstaying his visa called Tuesday on police and the Immigration Bureau to disclose exactly how he died…

    The wife’s lawyer, Koichi Kodama, questioned the police investigation, which has not resulted in any arrests.

    “If a man died after five or six civilians, not public servants, held his limbs, they would undoubtedly be arrested,” Kodama said, adding he told “exactly that to the prosecutors” he met with Monday in Chiba.

    The Chiba police are questioning about 10 immigration officers and crew of Egypt Air, Kodama quoted a Chiba prosecutor as saying. Police said March 25 the cause of death was unclear after an autopsy. Kodama said a more thorough autopsy is being performed.

    Suraj’s wife is considering suing the government, but she and Kodama are holding off pending further evidence of malpractice by immigration officers.

    “Lawyers have no authority to collect evidence, and thus we have to wait for police to disclose evidence,” he said.

    Rest of the article at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100421a4.html

    14 Responses to “Japan Times on Suraj Case: Wife of Ghanian who died while being deported demands info on cause”

    1. adamw Says:

      he was here illegally for 16yrs before the deportation order was raised at which point he got married..
      i dont know how they can deport him if hes married though there is the original crime.
      hard to know how to resolve it though murdering him is certainly not the way.
      this whole thing of the police investigating themselves is ridiculous though

    2. James Annan Says:

      In the UK, being married to a citizen or resident is not a guarantee of residency rights. Obviously a “genuine” marriage is a strong factor, but AIUI the immigration dept has the right to assess this themselves, and the mere existence of legal marriage may not be enough. I would assume this is similar elsewhere.

      Not that it excuses the murder in any way, but it may justify the decision to deport.

    3. Jerry Says:

      I was wondering the same thing (how they could deport him if he was married to a Japanese citizen). It seems, though, that the courts ruled that they got married just to try to avoid deportation (which is where the wife being economically independent and there being no children would come in since either of those would be proof that they had a “real” relationship not one based on here’s some cash marry me so I don’t get deported).

      Sorry he’s dead, something certainly smells fishy, hopefully he’ll get a full autopsy and we can find out how he really died.

    4. Arudou Debito Says:

      Black Tokyo dug up an article on this (http://www.blacktokyo.com/?p=5259):

      Ghanaian Prince Dies In Custody of Japanese Immigration
      Diasporian News of Tuesday, 30 March 2010
      http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/diaspora/artikel.php?ID=179482

      The family of a Ghanaian prince from a royal home up north, who died in the custody of Japanese Immigration, is calling for full investigations into how their son died, since they believe that he was killed by the authorities in Japan!

      Additionally they have called for a repatriation of the body to Ghana as well as full compensation for the killing, if it is established that he died unlawfully.

      In an interview with members of his family in Accra yesterday, March 29, 2010, they said that Awudu Samad Abubakar, popularly known as ‘Mac Barry’ was a resident of Japan, and died in the capital town of Japan; Tokyo, while under the detention of the Japanese immigration on Sunday, 21st March, 2010.

      Mac Barry, who would have turned 46 in October this year, was arrested by the Immigration on his way to work from his residence in Tokyo almost a year now. He was sent to the Japanese National Airport at Tokyo last week Sunday to be deported to Ghana, but the attempted repatriation was stopped when flight officials saw how weak the victim was.

      The pilot on board the Egypt Air Flight, which was to carry Mc Barry to Ghana upon realising that he was dead, rejected the request of the Japanese Immigration even when they insisted that the remains of Mc Barry should be repatriated.

      According to the family, the corpse of Awudu Samad Abubakar was subsequently rejected by his Japanese wife, Yuko Tatara, when the immigration called her to come for the corpse of her husband. The reason his wife gave was that she had been doing everything possible for the release of her husband but all her actions did not yield any positive results and that they should bare their own cross.

      Mc Barry had lived in Japan for more than 22 years and resides at F2YUWA HITUS 3-8-47 IZUMISUGINAMI-KU 1680063 in Tokyo; Japan legally.

      The Immigration managed to forge an International Travel Certificate (ITC) to enable them transport him without the knowledge of the Ghanaian Embassy in Japan.

      At present, all his travelling and other documents are in the hands of the Japanese Immigration and but for the help of the Egyptian Air Pilot and Mac Barry Japanese wife, nobody would have known about his death.

      Information gathered by the Searchlight indicates that some black Africans in Tokyo went on a peaceful demonstration against the Japanese government for what they believe was an act of injustice and abuse of human rights on Awudu Samad Abubakar who is now in the mortuary in Tokyo.

      After the demonstration, the Japanese government sent a letter of apology to the Ghana Embassy in Japan but was turned down, as they demanded an autopsy on the dead body of the Ghanaians.

      Speaking to Ayiba Larry, the family head of the deceased, he disclosed that Awudu Samad Abubakar is the heir to the skin of Chamba-Banumba traditional area and that their family has lost a pillar.

      “His death come us as shock. Even his mother who has BP collapsed upon hearing the sad news. His death is a total loss to our family and our community as a whole,” he added. He demanded on behalf of the family that a private doctor carries out the autopsy to find out the cause of the death of Samad Abubakar after which the body should be flown back to Ghana.

      “We also want the Japanese government to compensate us even though no amount of money can replace our beloved Awudu Samad Abubakar,” Mr Larry added.
      ENDS

    5. Jerry Says:

      Hmm – I am trying to figure out how this is possible:

      “Mc Barry had lived in Japan for more than 22 years and resides at F2YUWA HITUS 3-8-47 IZUMISUGINAMI-KU 1680063 in Tokyo; Japan legally.”

      if he had been arrested as a VISA over stayer and was being deported.

      Of course his wife refusing to accept his body certainly seems to support the courts decision that he and his “wife” didn’t have a real relationship, other than trying to keep him from being deported. After all, I can’t imagine a wife not wanting the body of her husband (or vice versa).

      I think Black Tokyo might need a recalibration of their perception of reality. It’s always sad when this sort of exaggeration of the facts to try to jerk an emotional response happens because it takes away from the real tragedy of his death and the very real possibility that there was foul play involved.

    6. Doug Says:

      Interesting story and if true absoulutely disgusting.

      Jerry do not be so skeptical….I speak from experience….At first I refused to believe the old guy visiting Japan was encarcerated by the Tokyo Police for having small pocketknife….and lo and behold that story turned out to be true.

      If what Black Tokyo has published is true it is beyond criminal. If what they have published is false of course they should recant. Either way I hope this allegation is investigated.

      The sad thing about somethings related to the legal system, immigration, and police here is that I actually believe that what Black Tokyo has published could be true.

      – Some people naturally give police the benefit of the doubt. Thin Blue Line and all that. It takes a lot to disillusion them. But the NPA and related Japanese police forces do their best. To disillusion, I mean.

    7. Meat67 Says:

      ” … But the NPA and related Japanese police forces do their best. To disillusion, I mean.”

      Lol. Sad, but true. I find it difficult to believe that anyone would take what the NPA (and related forces) say(s) at face value.

    8. Zurui Says:

      “I think Black Tokyo might need a recalibration of their perception of reality. It’s always sad when this sort of exaggeration of the facts to try to jerk an emotional response happens because it takes away from the real tragedy of his death and the very real possibility that there was foul play involved.”

      The source [Ghana Web, http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/diaspora/artikel.php?ID=179482 article was posted because it, and the 199 comments, provide you with information not found in Japanese news and gives the critical reader insight to life, thoughts and feelings in McBarry's homeland.

      As reported in the Japan Times, "The Chiba police are questioning about 10 immigration officers and crew of Egypt Air, Kodama quoted a Chiba prosecutor as saying. Police said March 25 the cause of death was unclear after an autopsy. Kodama said a more thorough autopsy is being performed." What reason would the wife have to accept the body of her husband if an "official" investigation is being conducted. Remember that “Lawyers have no authority to collect evidence, and thus they have to wait for police to disclose evidence.” Accepting the body for burial or cremation clears a murky case in my opinion

      As stated on BT: "Although I am looking for additonal sources to fact check some of the information on Ghana Web, one thing is certain… people are mad, tossing blame and questioning why the family in Ghana is asking for money instead of calling for justice?!"

      BT is not exaggerating facts, only reporting what other news sources (Ghana Web and the Japan Times) released and as stated, looking for "additional sources to fact check the information." Reporting the rest or another side of story is very important!

      BTW, I stuck on stupid with the courts ruling: In February 2008, the Tokyo District Court ruled the deportation order be waived. But in March 2009, the Tokyo High Court repealed the district court's ruling on grounds the couple was childless and the wife was economically independent, Yoshida said."

      It's been "factually" reported that:

      1. "Suraj came to Japan on a temporary visa, which expired in 15 days, in May 1988, according to Yoshida." [ILLEGAL]
      2. “He was arrested on suspicion of staying illegally in September 2006, and received a deportation order in November that year.” [LEGAL]
      3. “The same month, his wife registered their marriage.” [ILLEGAL or LEGAL?]
      4. “In February 2008, the Tokyo District Court ruled the deportation order be waived.” [I wonder under what grounds?]
      5. “In March 2009, the Tokyo High Court repealed the district court’s ruling on grounds the couple was childless and the wife was economically independent.” [WTF!]

      As Debito correctly stated: “So if they had children and she was a dependent housewife, then he could have stayed in Japan? Their marriage counts for nothing otherwise? Not sure I get it.”

      So did the Tokyo High Court find a sham marriage? Did the Court believe the couple married for no other reason than a Japanese national providing a means for a person on an expired visa to stay in the county? Did the Court find the marriage not based on love or wanting to create a family unit (if medically possible)? Did the Court rule that all self-sufficient, childless Japanese women married to NJ’s risk having their non-bread winner deported?

      No news here folks! R.I.P. McBarry, you and your wife deserve(d) better!

      Zurui

    9. Jerry Says:

      Sorry Doug, I do tend to be a bit skeptical. But it’s mostly because I tend to look at things from the perspective of what is the personal gain involved. That and I am a firm believer in Occam’s Razor.

      For instance – why am I dubious about the wife? Well, if she was in this only for the money she got her money to marry him, she’s looking at a big payday if the NPA is found to be liable for his death, and she doesn’t want his body which would only cost her money to dispose of (or pay for an autopsy).

      Why am I dubious of the police? Because they haven’t performed an autopsy. One would think they would be the first ones to request an autopsy just to prove they did not take any liberties with the fellow. They have everything to gain and nothing to lose by no autopsy being performed.

      What do I think actually happened?

      A fellow who was a long term visa overstayer (and happened to be related to a village Chief in Ghania) got caught. Arranged a marriage for cash to try to game the system. Courts ruled it wasn’t a “real” marriage and deported him anyway. He, figuring there was no downside to it, decided to physically resist deportation. The cops got overzealous (or pissed off if he managed to hurt one of them) and roughed him up to the point where he expired. Seems the simplest, mostly likely scenario that fits the facts as we know them.

      – If that’s the case, then it’s either 1) negligent homicide or 2) racially-motivated murder. Either one has no connection to the background scenarios you give. Nobody deserves to die like this, and somebody has to take responsibility and criminal punishment for it. The problem is, I believe, this is quite unlikely even with all the exposure thus far, and would be impossible if left to its own devices in the Japanese police forces. So let’s not get sidetracked with issues of money, overstaying, whatever, when the real issue here is now a homicide. Who watches the watchers?

    10. Jerry Says:

      Thank you for making my point Debito.

      The facts of this case are horrific enough. The simple title of “Man Dies Under Suspicious Circumstances While in Police Custody, Police Refuse to Perform Autopsy” should be enough.

      By trying to sensationalize it, by bringing up what is likely a sham marriage, by trying to claim he’s some sort of royalty, and by claiming he’s being deported even though he’s legally living in the country… This gives the people who don’t want to watch the watchers ammunition for the next time this sort of thing happens.

      This sort of thing damages the credibility of any effort to effect change. It’s a short sited attempt that damages the long term goal of trying to gain racial equality in Japan.

      [tangent deleted]

    11. Zurui Says:

      “The facts of this case are horrific enough. The simple title of “Man Dies Under Suspicious Circumstances While in Police Custody, Police Refuse to Perform Autopsy” should be enough.”

      Copywriter?

      “By trying to sensationalize it, by bringing up what is likely a sham marriage, by trying to claim he’s some sort of royalty, and by claiming he’s being deported even though he’s legally living in the country… This gives the people who don’t want to watch the watchers ammunition for the next time this sort of thing happens.”

      Judge and jury? The writer in Ghana that interviewed McBarry’s family stated that he is prince. Although it may not be on the level that those who follow royalty are used to, he is still a prince according to his culture and family status. The media could have used African, Ghanian, Black, Negro, Foreigner, businessman, resident alien, illegal alien, visa overstayer or just man.

      “This sort of thing damages the credibility of any effort to effect change. It’s a short sited attempt that damages the long term goal of trying to gain racial equality in Japan.”

      Unless I missed something, I am not sure if that would have grabbed the readers attention. If you want people to view the story, use a headline that grabs them, especially if it deals with a group (you decide which one) that may not “typically” be portrayed in a positive light!

      “The problem is, I believe, this is quite unlikely even with all the exposure thus far, and would be impossible if left to its own devices in the Japanese police forces. So let’s not get sidetracked with issues of money, overstaying, whatever, when the real issue here is now a homicide. Who watches the watchers?”

      And that’s the point! To gain exposure, catch the reader and others that report (the media, bloggers, podcasters).

      I hope to have these questions answered: “Did the Tokyo High Court find a sham marriage? Did the Court believe the couple married for no other reason than a Japanese national providing a means for a person on an expired visa to stay in the county? Did the Court find the marriage not based on love or wanting to create a family unit (if medically possible)? Did the Court rule that all self-sufficient, childless Japanese women married to NJ’s risk having their non-bread winner deported?”

      BTW, although the death of McBarry is tragic and folks protested, have you heard of anyone protesting Japan’s base due to open in Djibouti (the southern tip of Somalia), Africa? That is about as sensational as it gets!!

    12. Rob Says:

      I was at the immigration office in Shinagawa, Tokyo, earlier today, and while I was waiting a predominantly black (though with some asian and caucasian) group turned up to hold a protest about this incident right outside the building. I couldn’t hear everything, but they were recounting details of the case, condemning the lack of action and communication from the government and police, and demanding a proper investigation – in both Japanese and English. They were getting quite a big crowd, but over the hours they were there no officials from inside approached them, and the only media I could see were a few photographers.

      By the time I left a number of police cars had started moving discreetly into the nearby streets, but I don’t know if anything else happened after I left.

    13. Allen Says:

      An update on the issue:
      The Japan Times Monday, June 28, 2010
      Action urged in deportee death
      By MINORU MATSUTANI
      Staff writer
      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100628x3.html

      A Japanese woman submitted a criminal complaint Monday demanding that prosecutors in Chiba Prefecture take action against the immigration officers at Narita airport who in March overpowered her Ghanaian husband to get him on a jet, where he subsequently died of unknown causes while handcuffed in his seat.

      The woman, who asked not to be named, took the legal action because Chiba police have not arrested or turned over to prosecutors the immigration officers allegedly involved in the death of deportee Abubakar Awudu Suraj, even though three months have passed.

      “The Immigration Bureau and police have not explained what really happened,” said Mayumi Yoshida, assistant general secretary of Asian People’s Friendship Society and a supporter of the widow.

      “Suraj’s wife, APFS and her lawyers have decided to file a criminal complaint as we are concerned important evidence may be lost, and statements of suspects and other people may be tampered with, considering the investigation process has taken such a long time,” the organization said in a press release.

      Koichi Kodama, the wife’s lawyer, has said the immigration officers should face charges of violence and cruelty resulting in death.

      The immigration officers carried Suraj, with a towel covering his mouth, aboard an Egypt Air jet on March 22, Yoshida quoted a Chiba police officer as saying.

      Suraj, who was handcuffed, was found unconscious in the aircraft and confirmed dead at a hospital, Yoshida quoted the officer as saying.

      The Chiba police were unable to pinpoint the cause of death. They showed Yoshida a report dated May 20 that indicated there were no signs of disease or physical damage, either internal or external, APFS said in the press release.

      Kodama has said police would have no trouble arresting a civilian who committed similar actions if the restrained person were to subsequently die.

      Suraj came to Japan on a 15-day visa in May 1988, according to Yoshida. In 1990, he began living with the woman who later became his wife. He was arrested in September 2006 on suspicion of being in the country illegally and received a deportation order that November. The same month, his wife registered their marriage.

      The Tokyo District Court ruled in February 2008 that the deportation order be waived. But in March 2009, the Tokyo High Court repealed the district court ruling on grounds that the couple were childless and the wife was economically independent, Yoshida said.

      The widow, Kodama and Yoshida went to the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office to submit the complaint.

    14. Shawn Says:

      Wow! This is a sad situation…. I hope they find out how he died. I read that the immigration officers used handcuffs and a towel to restrain him. The towel I heard was shoved in his mouth which might have blocked his air way. The victim probably couldn’t speak to let them know he was suffocating, and being restrained in handcuffs couldn’t remove the towel. The point is this regardless of him being deported, he didn’t arrive back to his country alive, and the Japanese government is responsible for his death period. That’s why its important for all of you that are foreigners to get married legally to avoid this kind of problems. Don’t procrastinate in following Japanese immigration rules! I think his wife is courageous for filing criminal charges and backing up her dead husband, she’s a beautiful strong woman inside. I heard she got fired from her job because they claimed she shamed the company, [...] . I hope she sues her job and wins against them. To the wife of the dead Ghanian, I come from a black American family in California, my family can help you in California if your harassed by racist. If you read this email contact Shawn. You have family in America. pacpac10@yahoo.com

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