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  • Suraj Case of police brutality and death during Immigration deportation in Japan Times Nov 1, 2011

    Posted by arudou debito on November 4th, 2011

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    Hi Blog. Sorry to take a day or two to get to this. Here we have more reported (thanks to assiduous folks at the Community Page at the Japan Times) on the Suraj Case, a mysteriously underinvestigated case we’ve mentioned here before of police brutality and death of an African during deportation. What gets me is that even some of the veto gates at the Japan Times, according to the editor of this article on his facebook entry, took issue with the use of the word “brutal” in the headline; given what finally came to light regarding the condition of Mr. Suraj’s corpse below, “brutal” is obviously appropriate. And it would not have come to light at all had not Mr. Suraj’s widow and these reporters not pursued this case with such tenacity. Keep it up, Japan Times. Who else in a milquetoast Japanese media that is generally unsympathetic to NJ issues would give a toss? Arudou Debito

    ///////////////////////////////////////////

    The Japan Times Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011

    PHOTO CAPTION: Immigration policy on trial: Abubakar Awudu Suraj died after being restrained by immigration officers with hand and ankle cuffs, a rope, four plastic restraints and a towel gag before a flight to Cairo from Narita airport. Below: An illustrated note that Suraj passed to his wife during her visit to an immigration center during one of his periods in detention. COURTESY OF ABUBAKAR AWUDU SURAJ’S WIDOW

    THE ZEIT GIST
    Justice stalled in brutal death of deportee
    Autopsy suggests immigration officers used excessive force in restraining Ghanaian
    By SUMIE KAWAKAMI and DAVID MCNEILL
    Courtesy http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111101zg.html, thanks to lots of people

    Abubakar Awudu Suraj had been in Japan for over two decades when immigration authorities detained him in May 2009. The Ghanaian was told in Yokohama of his deportation to Ghana at 9:15 a.m. on March 22 last year. Six hours later he was dead, allegedly after being excessively restrained by guards.

    Jimmy Mubenga also died last year while being held down by three private security guards before takeoff on a British Airways flight from London to Angola. The father of five had lost his appeal to stay in the U.K. and was being deported. Mubenga put up a struggle and died after the guards sat on him for 10 minutes, say witnesses.

    But the details of the deportations of two men from rich countries back to their native Africa, and their aftermath, are strikingly different. Mubenga’s death is already the subject of a vigorous police inquiry, front-page stories and an investigation by The Guardian newspaper. The case has been discussed in Parliament, where security minister Baroness Neville-Jones called it “extraordinarily regrettable.”

    Suraj has received no such honors. The 45-year-old’s case has largely been ignored in the Japanese media and no politician has answered for his death. An investigation by Chiba prosecutors appears to have stalled. There has been no explanation or apology from the authorities.

    His Japanese wife, who had shared a life with him for 22 years, was not even aware he was being deported. She was given no explanation when she identified his body later that day. His body was not returned to her for nearly three months. Supporters believe he put up a struggle because he wanted to tell his wife he was being sent home.

    An autopsy report seen in a court document notes abrasions to his face, internal bleeding of muscles on the neck, back, abdomen and upper arm, along with leakage of blood around the eyes, blood congestion in some organs, and dark red blood in the heart. Yet the report bizarrely concluded that the cause of death is “unknown.”

    Any movement in the Suraj case is largely down to his wife, who wants to remain anonymous. She won a lawsuit against the Justice Ministry, which oversees immigration issues, demanding it disclose documents related to his death. The documents were finally released in May, more than a year after he died…

    Rest at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20111101zg.html

    ////////////////////////////////////
    UPDATE: – Economist (London) reports on Suraj Case, and NPA not allowing journalists to investigate, courtesy CR. Debito
    ==============================

    Justice in Japan
    An ugly decision
    The Economist Nov 4th 2011, 8:05 by K.N.C.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2011/11/justice-japan?fsrc=scn%2Ffb%2Fwl%2Fblanuglydecision

    BOUND and gagged, a man dies in the custody of immigration officers while being forcibly deported. The police investigate slowly. Prosecutors mull the case. The wheels of justice barely turn.

    Now, it looks like the case will be dropped completely—and a man’s death go unpunished. Prosecutors in Chiba prefecture, where Tokyo’s Narita airport is located, have decided not to indict the ten officers who carried Abubakar Awudu Suraj’s unconscious body onto an Air Egypt flight in March 2010 before he was declared dead, according to a new report in the Yomiuri Shimbun.

    Two official autopsies at the time could not determine the cause of death, though Mr Suraj’s widow saw injuries to his face when she identified the body. A new autopsy however purports to reveal that he had suffered heart disease and says the cause of his death was illness.

    This is hard to swallow at face value. Three days after the incident an immigration official told Mr Suraj’s widow “It is a sorry thing that we have done.” Officialdom dragged its heels to such a degree that she had to file criminal charges and later civil charges. The kind of gag that was used to restrain him is prohibited, though its use is said to be commonplace.

    Mr Suraj was a Ghanaian national who arrived in Japan in 1988, learned the language, worked odd jobs and married a Japanese woman. He was arrested for overstaying his visa and the courts didn’t accept his requests to remain. The March 2010 deportation was the immigration bureau’s second attempt—after Mr Suraj made such a rumpus the first time round that it had to be stopped. So perhaps officers used a bit of extra force to make sure it didn’t fail.

    It is an ugly situation. The authorities surely didn’t mean for Mr Suraj to die in custody. But since he did, the people responsible should be held legally accountable. The Chiba prosecutors, by suggesting they may drop the case, look as complicit as the ten officers themselves.

    Addendum, 5 November 2011: When The Economist requested an interview with the Chiba prosecutor’s office, the answer was a firm no. An employee said that interviews are only allowed for members of the prosecutors’ “Kisha Club,” the quasi-formal groups that control the flow of news to major Japanese news organisations (and which tend to turn journalists into stenographers for officialdom, by neutering independent reporting). The employee said that the only time The Economist can prosecutors questions is during an annual “press registration”—whose application deadline is long past. Must every Japanese institution be designed to keep out outsiders?
    ENDS

    =============================

    RE: Civil suit mentioned above:

    Japan’s immigration policy
    Gone but not forgotten
    The Economist Aug 5th 2011, 9:45 by K.N.C. | TOKYO

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2011/08/japans-immigration-policy

    WRISTS cuffed, ankles bound and with a rolled towel shoved in his mouth, Abubakar Awudu Suraj died in the custody of nine Japanese immigration officers on March 22nd 2010 while being deported to Ghana for overstaying his visa. Since then his widow and friends have sought information—and justice—from the authorities, but have been ignored. On August 5th 2011 they filed a civil suit against the government.

    The Chiba prefectural prosecutors have received the results of an investigation but have yet to act. None of the officers have been sanctioned at all, explains Koichi Kodama, a lawyer working on Mr Suraj’s case. He argues that the authorities are trying to cover up misdeeds. For example, restraining a person by using ankles cuffs and a towel is not permitted, he says. And in a videotape of the botched deportation, the supervisor tells the cameraman to stop filming as things get hot, says Mr Kodama.

    The civil suit seeks compensation of ¥136m (around $1.5m) from the government for wrongful death. But the real motivation is to hold the authorities to account, explains Mr Suraj’s widow. “I want to reveal the truth without concealing anything,” she says. “They were carrying a human being. I don’t understand why they had to treat him like that. I feel very powerless,” she says.

    The Japanese mainstream media have largely ignored the case. (We reported it May 2010 and followed up in December 2010.) The head of the immigration bureau left out unflattering facts about his officers’ conduct when he was called to the Diet (parliament) to explain what happened. A criminal case was filed as well, naming the officers involved, but it has barely budged on the court’s docket. The ministry of justice looks hampered by rather obvious conflicts of interest. The ministry’s agents hold the evidence of wrongdoing that their colleagues are alleged to have committed. The ministry stands responsible for penalising officials within its own ranks.

    One small change is that since Mr Suraj’s death, there apparently have not been any other forced deportations. But that only sharpens the question. As long as Mr Suraj’s case is ignored by officialdom, it is Japan’s institutions of justice that fall under suspicion. Every day that the officers who were present when Mr Suraj died don their uniforms and walk into their offices is another day in which the Japanese state looks complicit in a cover-up.
    ENDS

    26 Responses to “Suraj Case of police brutality and death during Immigration deportation in Japan Times Nov 1, 2011”

    1. giles Says:

      The description of the case by Japan Times and Yomiuri is so different…
      http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111102005023.htm
      We still don’t know the truth, that is the sad thing. Do the police really have the power to control reporting of facts in newspapers such as yomiuri on issues like this? …or is it just a lack of will on the part of media to dig up the truth when it concerns NJ?
      I am more inclined to believe the Japan Times version of events but I doubt most Japanese people will think the same way unless they see it in a mainstream Japanese newspaper that cant be disregarded as foreigners “Japan bashing”…silly that people should think that way as this case is as much about justice for Japanese people as NJ …so sad for his wife, I hope the truth comes out one day.

      —-
      Yomiuri article:

      No plans to charge officers in death of Ghanaian man
      The Yomiuri Shimbun

      CHIBA–Prosecutors plan not to indict 10 immigration officers over the case of a Ghanaian man who died while being deported last year, sources said Wednesday.

      The Chiba prefectural police had sent papers to the prosecutors concerning 10 officers of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, on suspicion of causing the death of Abubakar Awudu Suraj after using excessive force to restrain him.

      The 45-year-old man, who had overstayed his visa, reportedly became aggressive when immigration officers tried to get him aboard an airplane at Narita Airport on March 22, 2010. After boarding, Suraj stopped moving shortly before the plane’s departure. He was taken to a hospital but was pronounced dead there.

      The cause of his death was initially unknown, but he was later found to have suffered from heart disease, according to sources close to the investigation. Investigators have obtained a diagnosis based on an autopsy report that says Suraj’s death was due to illness, the sources said.

      The immigration officers reportedly used handcuffs and other means to restrain him. It appears the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office has concluded that such action was legitimate in the line of duty.

      (Nov. 3, 2011)

    2. AJ Says:

      That’s a disgusting perversion of the truth by the Yomiuri. Not to mention staggering lack of effort to discover or seek anything close to the truth. Is there no integrity in journalism in this country?

    3. AJ Says:

      Sorry to set off on a tangent, but if you don’t want to read drivel like that, and want to get real news on Japan that you won’t see reported by the mainstream media outlets, where do you go? (other than the Japan Times)

    4. Colin Says:

      You will never win a battle against the authorities. You are the small unpowerful person. The police state is fully intact and that is why you can be beaten, mis-treated, lied to, framed and left to fend for yourself. This is the world we live in. The powers that be have to keep you under control. Saddest thing is that the powers that be do horrible things to the people they should protect.

    5. Peter Says:

      Why was he being held down and restrained? Because he had walked onto the plane and quietly went to his seat or because he was aggressively resisting being placed on the plane? I think the answer is pretty obvious.

      –If so, obviously he deserved to die for it. /sarcasm. Grow a heart.

    6. Jim Di Griz Says:

      ‘autopsy report that says Suraj’s death was due to illness’

      Sure, an illness that grabbed him by the throat, punched him in the face, and kicked him in the stomach, right?

      ‘autopsy report seen in a court document notes abrasions to his face, internal bleeding of muscles on the neck, back, abdomen and upper arm, along with leakage of blood around the eyes, blood congestion in some organs, and dark red blood in the heart’.

      I didn’t know heart disease could do all that!

    7. Ah Says:

      The lies and “logic” of the Japanese justice system completely boggles my mind. I’ve had more than one encounter with Japanese police in which they physically detained me (not under arrest), and when I tried to file complaints afterward I was told that I “voluntarily” detained myself! Uh, excuse me?? They put their hands on me and now they’re saying that it was voluntary? This is the kind of twisted logic that both NJ and Japanese have to live with everyday.

    8. Ah Says:

      @Peter
      Oh really? So I guess any time somebody with a job title such as immigration officer puts their hands on you (or even kills you), the answer is obviously because you were being aggressive. Never mind fact-finding investigations, autopsies, or reviews. What’s the need? Just look at the person’s job title, and if it says “immigration officer”, then all is well. Because as you know, we all live in a perfect system where the police are never out of line. Wake up! You think the police are descended from the heavens? NO, they’re regular people who had to fill out job applications like anybody else. Like bus drivers, train drivers, taxi drivers… like anybody else. If a bus driver ran somebody over, would you say “obviously the guy crossing the street deserved it.”?

    9. jim Says:

      if a Japanese guy died in america during being deported then you better believe that someone would be held accountable.just think about it from that viewpoint

    10. Paul Says:

      Even if Abubakar Suraj did have heart disease, this in no way excuses the behaviour of the Immigration officers. They should be aware that detainees might have a serious illness. It is arguable that ‘illegal immigrants’, who often have less access to medical treatment than most of us, may be more likely to have a serious illness (than most of us).

      (Is it OK to brutalize detainees if they don’t have a serious illness?)

      And his wife was fired: http://www.economist.com/node/16113280

    11. anonymous Says:

      @Ah – Next time, you need to film them touching you (and saying lies such as “you don’t have the right to walk away.”) And film them producing (or refusing to produce) their Keisatsu Techou. Then you have a solid lawsuit. Otherwise, the police will do as you have seen in your experience already: they will simply lie by saying that they never touched you, and that you “voluntarily” gave them permission to detain you on the street. Video Evidence is the key that sets you free.

    12. giles Says:

      @Paul
      I think it is unlikely Suraj had heart disease…in the Japan Times article it has a series of quotes by his doctor who was visited (after the death) by police supposedly hunting for some health problem that might give an alternative (off the hook) explanation for Suraj`s death…

      ————-
      “After Suraj’s death, the police called on Junpei Yamamura, a doctor who regularly visits immigrants and asylum seekers at detention centers, and who had records of the victim’s health.
      The police were obviously trying to find weakness in Suraj’s health when they came to ask about him,” Yamamura says. “They visited me four times about the case, despite the fact I repeatedly told them that there was nothing wrong with him.”
      Yamamura said his records showed that Suraj’s heartbeat was slower than average on one occasion, but was normal when he was reexamined later. An electrocardiogram otherwise showed no abnormality.
      Yamamura also examined his body after it was returned to his wife. He says he saw a cut on Suraj’s cheek, an indication that the gag was too tight. “This is criminal abuse of power,” says Yamamura.
      ————-

      Yomiuri obviously went with the official line of a pre existing heart problem and somehow chose to ignore Dr Yamamura and the series of injuries shown in the autopsy report.

    13. Loverilakkuma Says:

      The incident just draws the implications for a seriously flawed Japanese legal system. It’s kind of like throwing us into the pitfall between Alien and Sedition Acts and the 14th Amendment.

      – Please unpack these two a little for members of our audience not familiar with these American touchstones.

    14. AJ Says:

      Then the Yomiuri is guilty of serious journalistic dishonesty, a racial double standard, or just not caring enough to do any diligent research before putting said article to print. Either way, it’s a disgrace.

    15. debito Says:

      – Economist (London) reports on Suraj Case, and NPA not allowing journalists to investigate, courtesy CR. Debito
      ==============================

      Justice in Japan
      An ugly decision
      The Economist Nov 4th 2011, 8:05 by K.N.C.
      http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2011/11/justice-japan?fsrc=scn%2Ffb%2Fwl%2Fblanuglydecision

      BOUND and gagged, a man dies in the custody of immigration officers while being forcibly deported. The police investigate slowly. Prosecutors mull the case. The wheels of justice barely turn.

      Now, it looks like the case will be dropped completely—and a man’s death go unpunished. Prosecutors in Chiba prefecture, where Tokyo’s Narita airport is located, have decided not to indict the ten officers who carried Abubakar Awudu Suraj’s unconscious body onto an Air Egypt flight in March 2010 before he was declared dead, according to a new report in the Yomiuri Shimbun.

      Two official autopsies at the time could not determine the cause of death, though Mr Suraj’s widow saw injuries to his face when she identified the body. A new autopsy however purports to reveal that he had suffered heart disease and says the cause of his death was illness.

      This is hard to swallow at face value. Three days after the incident an immigration official told Mr Suraj’s widow “It is a sorry thing that we have done.” Officialdom dragged its heels to such a degree that she had to file criminal charges and later civil charges. The kind of gag that was used to restrain him is prohibited, though its use is said to be commonplace.

      Mr Suraj was a Ghanaian national who arrived in Japan in 1988, learned the language, worked odd jobs and married a Japanese woman. He was arrested for overstaying his visa and the courts didn’t accept his requests to remain. The March 2010 deportation was the immigration bureau’s second attempt—after Mr Suraj made such a rumpus the first time round that it had to be stopped. So perhaps officers used a bit of extra force to make sure it didn’t fail.

      It is an ugly situation. The authorities surely didn’t mean for Mr Suraj to die in custody. But since he did, the people responsible should be held legally accountable. The Chiba prosecutors, by suggesting they may drop the case, look as complicit as the ten officers themselves.

      Addendum, 5 November 2011: When The Economist requested an interview with the Chiba prosecutor’s office, the answer was a firm no. An employee said that interviews are only allowed for members of the prosecutors’ “Kisha Club,” the quasi-formal groups that control the flow of news to major Japanese news organisations (and which tend to turn journalists into stenographers for officialdom, by neutering independent reporting). The employee said that the only time The Economist can prosecutors questions is during an annual “press registration”—whose application deadline is long past. Must every Japanese institution be designed to keep out outsiders?
      ENDS

      =============================

      RE: Civil suit mentioned above:

      Japan’s immigration policy
      Gone but not forgotten
      The Economist Aug 5th 2011, 9:45 by K.N.C. | TOKYO
      http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2011/08/japans-immigration-policy

      WRISTS cuffed, ankles bound and with a rolled towel shoved in his mouth, Abubakar Awudu Suraj died in the custody of nine Japanese immigration officers on March 22nd 2010 while being deported to Ghana for overstaying his visa. Since then his widow and friends have sought information—and justice—from the authorities, but have been ignored. On August 5th 2011 they filed a civil suit against the government.

      The Chiba prefectural prosecutors have received the results of an investigation but have yet to act. None of the officers have been sanctioned at all, explains Koichi Kodama, a lawyer working on Mr Suraj’s case. He argues that the authorities are trying to cover up misdeeds. For example, restraining a person by using ankles cuffs and a towel is not permitted, he says. And in a videotape of the botched deportation, the supervisor tells the cameraman to stop filming as things get hot, says Mr Kodama.

      The civil suit seeks compensation of ¥136m (around $1.5m) from the government for wrongful death. But the real motivation is to hold the authorities to account, explains Mr Suraj’s widow. “I want to reveal the truth without concealing anything,” she says. “They were carrying a human being. I don’t understand why they had to treat him like that. I feel very powerless,” she says.

      The Japanese mainstream media have largely ignored the case. (We reported it May 2010 and followed up in December 2010.) The head of the immigration bureau left out unflattering facts about his officers’ conduct when he was called to the Diet (parliament) to explain what happened. A criminal case was filed as well, naming the officers involved, but it has barely budged on the court’s docket. The ministry of justice looks hampered by rather obvious conflicts of interest. The ministry’s agents hold the evidence of wrongdoing that their colleagues are alleged to have committed. The ministry stands responsible for penalising officials within its own ranks.

      One small change is that since Mr Suraj’s death, there apparently have not been any other forced deportations. But that only sharpens the question. As long as Mr Suraj’s case is ignored by officialdom, it is Japan’s institutions of justice that fall under suspicion. Every day that the officers who were present when Mr Suraj died don their uniforms and walk into their offices is another day in which the Japanese state looks complicit in a cover-up.
      ENDS

    16. Johnny Says:

      What a disgusting situation and as usual Japanese officialdom is trying to cover things up.

      If this were to happen overseas to a [Japanese], there would be a hell of an outcry.

    17. giles Says:

      I think what is really sad is that people read this in other countries and think Japanese people are terrible or something, when really it is the authorities that are so badly behaved. Many Japanese people are horrified and disgusted with this and feel that the system is letting them down… if this is about protecting “team Japan” they are doing a lousy job as most of the people here want no part of it.

    18. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Giles
      ‘it is the authorities that are so badly behaved’.
      Good point.

      ‘Many Japanese people are horrified and disgusted with this’, are you sure? I think that most don’t know, and don’t care. Awareness is so low, and if you try to explain it to Japanese people that you know, most of them will side with the authorities as a default.

    19. Loverilakkuma Says:

      For those who are not familiar with the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798) and the 14th Amendment, please see below:

      The Alien and Sedition Acts (1798) consist of four bills passed by the Federalists as the growing fear of French Revolution augmented American anxiety toward foreigners and a subsequent battle with France. The bills make the restrictions on citizenship and naturalization—1) extending the duration of habitual residency for foreigners to become a US citizen; 2) authorizing the president to deport any resident alien considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States,”; 3) authorizing the president to apprehend and deport resident aliens; and 4) making it a crime to publish “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” against the government or certain officials.

      The 14th Amendment was adopted to the US Constitution in 1868 after the devastation of the Civil War. It was added as the means to provide an extended definition of citizenship by reflecting on the controversial Supreme Court case- Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)—that held that blacks could not be citizens of the United States. Its due process clause prohibits state and local governments from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without certain steps being taken to ensure fairness.

      I mentioned these two touchstones—because the drawbacks within in the US legal system from the Revolution Wars to the post-Reconstruction era provide the ramifications on citizenship eligibility and government’s treatment of aliens/citizens at the time of national crisis. Too many civilians— Americans and aliens, journalists and politicians fell into the cracks due to the unstable political climate vulnerable to enemy threat across the nation. The irony is that Team Japan seems to deploy the rhetoric of enemy-ship in their most secured, peaceful community

      See more,

      The Alien and Sedition Acts (1798):
      http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Encyclopedia_Americana_(1920)/Alien_and_Sedition_Acts

      The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

    20. AJ Says:

      I’m with Jim on this one. I think they don’t know and don’t care.

      They care about political issues like pensions and whether or not they’ll be there, but not immigration issues, after all, why would a Japanese ever want to escape or run from Japan? And if they do nothing wrong they’ll never be arrested, right?

      – To nip inevitable exceptionalism (and not fuel typical derision if not stalking over at The Stalker Site), let’s try to avoid absolutism and “us-and-them” rhetoric in our commentary, shall we?

    21. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @AJ

      ‘ if they do nothing wrong they’ll never be arrested’, so true, and such a depressing aspect of fatalism in Japan. The ‘he was arrested, so he must have done something wrong’ attitude. The presumption of guilt, not innocence until proven guilty.

    22. Adriano Acioli Says:

      Taking a look closer to what seemed to have happened, for someone who spent decades in a country, has a wife, kids, struggled to built a LIFE in there (although without minimum rights and benefits a citizen/legal immigrant would have), it’s unlike somebody in these circunstances would just walk onto a plane and quietly wait to get kicked out the border to a place you never felt belonged to and have nothing tied to your person but a birth certificate.
      It wouldn’t go that way if it was me… specially if my wife and family weren’t even knowing I was about to be sent half a globe away, for good.
      But I’m not saying such behaviour deserves capital punishment.

      It reminds me a story of a poor southeast asian family (not remembering the nationality now) that despite being in the country for decades (illegally) and have raised all its children in Japan (they barely speak the mother’s language), their fate was mercilessly being sent back to their country.. I can’t forget the children’s faces, all crying, urging to go back to the school and friends..
      Naturally the World can’t be borderless, but sometimes amnesty policies and legislators must to be more, human.
      I’m not talking only about refugees fleeing from war zones, etc, but also those ones who struggles to built a life with dignity, and does the utmost to assimilate a culture, a language, and get fully integrated with the society around.
      This is what Mr. Suraj seemed to be.
      Immigration and amnesty policies are full of flaws, worldwide.
      I know some countries that are always targetting wrong, innocent people, all the time, while grants full rights and citizenship to others who crossed the border with no intention but to harm the nation and its people.
      When I read it first time, I felt very bad for Mr. Albuj.
      What leaded the death of this man (along with restraints, gags..) was to mistakenly unroot him from his homeland and family.

    23. debito Says:

      The case of Abubakar Awudu Suraj: A PR nightmare of Japan’s own making
      by Eddie Landsberg
      Japan Today, OPINIONS NOV. 16, 2011 – 06:29AM JST ( 51 )TOKYO —
      http://www.japantoday.com/category/opinions/view/the-case-of-abubakar-awudu-suraj-a-pr-nightmare-of-japan’s-own-making

      On March 22, 2010 (ironically, the same day my own visa was up for renewal), something terrible happened at Narita airport.

      Abubakar Awudu Suraj, 45, a Ghanian national who had overstayed his visa, was being forcibly deported. Most reports concede that he put up resistance. They state he became aggressive and that in the course of the incident, 10 immigration officers and airport officials were involved in restraining him. He died about 30 minutes later.

      Suraj’s Ghanian mother and Japanese widow are suing the the Japanese government and immigration authorities. They claim he was the victim of an excessively violent suppression, involving multiple assailants and illegal restraining equipment.

      According to the Yomiuri, reports by individuals “close to the case” said that the coroner had ruled Surah had a past history of heart disease and that was the cause of death.

      One year later, the Chiba District Public Prosecutors Office concluded that although handcuffs and other means had been used to restrain him, the officers had acted legitimately in the course of duty.

      Some individuals have alleged the case to be a gross miscarriage of justice. In reality, information available to the public is so scant for those of us reading about it, the truth at best is an intuitive guessing game.

      This is where issues that transcend a tragedy by any means arise.

      A number of articles highly critical of the Japanese system of justice, as well as the incident itself, have appeared in the international media. One ends by pointing out that the publication attempted to get the Chiba Prosecutors’ side of the story, but they flatly refused, stating that all comments are released through the “kisha” club system (a closed press core which often excludes independent and foreign news organizations.)

      The international press should indeed ask a lot of questions about the Suraj case, and equally, Japanese authorities must answer them. Having an image as a country that beats detainees to death is far from desirable not only from a human rights point of view, but a tourist perspective as well.

      To make things worse, while press information from public officials was limited to foreign officials, the Suraj’s widow and his lawyer made themselves available barely a month after the incident at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan for a press conference.

      At the hour-long event, attendees were given a past history of troublesome deportations from Japan. The month prior, a South Korean man had hanged himself at a detention center. There was also the suicide of a young Brazilian man in Ibaragi, as well as a hunger strike by 70 detainees at a detention center that month too.

      The Foreign Correspondents’ Club alleged that illegal immigrants are routinely kept in appalling conditions in circumstances that lack judicial oversight.

      Just as no members representing Suraj’s side of the story were present at the Kisha Club press conferences, no individuals representing the 10 officers and the Japanese Department of Justice were listed as present at the press conference either. Such norms result in a disturbingly unbalanced situation in which Japanese media appear to be “state controlled,” and foreign media simply don’t get the full story.

      In the end, we really don’t know what happened. In the U.S. under similar circumstances, would Mr Suraj have been tasered and restrained by whatever means necessary in order to ensure his removal, the personal safety of others and the officers – or were the actions of the guards outside the norms of international law?

      I don’t know. In fact, it is not the purpose of this article to offer an opinion on what actually happened. Rather, I would like to offer an admonition to Japanese officials. Japan is viewed from the outside world and if the system unintentionally cuts off the flow of information to journalists outside the country, expect that international coverage will focus on the worst. In addition, incidents such as the Suraj case only serve to darken the views of foreigners living in Japan toward the country, the result being detrimental to the fostering of international goodwill toward Japan.

      The solution to the problem is simple: Take foreign, independent and non-mainstream media seriously, and make sure there are bilingual vehicles for correspondence and exchange of information in any situation affecting the image of the country. It may be “taihen,” but in failing to do so, consider the consequences to Japan’s image as a nation, as well as the Japanese people as a whole.
      ENDS

    24. Jim Di Griz Says:

      On the same vein, we have an NJ suspect in a double NJ murder, who killed himself in police custody;
      http://www.japanprobe.com/2012/01/09/taiwanese-murder-suspect-commits-suicide/

      Since he was a suspect in a double murder by knife;
      1. Why did police allow him to be transported to the police station whilst carrying a knife? Forget to search him?
      2. Why wasn’t he handcuffed?
      3. In the absence of questioning the suspect, have the J-police declared this a clear cut case of NJ on NJ crime, and a simple ‘case solved’?

      It all seems rather convenient for the j-police, doesn’t it.

    25. Andrew in Saitama Says:

      @ Jim Di Griz
      Although the mainstream media report that he “went voluntarily” for questioning (and we all know what that means…) it does seem very convenient. Only if he had committed suicide and left a confession note would the police have less paperwork to deal with.

      I believe he was guilty of murder (murder victims are most likely to be familiar with the perpetrator), but the police handling of the case, and the media coverage seem to be far less than professional.

    26. john k Says:

      Interesting how different countries take different critical assessment of their own practices and thus biased, or otherwise, findings and charges:

      “…Three G4S custody officers will face manslaughter charges over the death of Jimmy Mubenga who died on a plane as he was deported from the UK…”

      http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-26665039

      – Yes. I will be covering the Suraj Case court decision in my next blog entry. I’m trying to get back to my 3/4-day cycle for posting. Thanks for this.

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