Swiss woman acquitted of crimes yet denied bail due to being NJ, then barred as “visa overstayer” anyway


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Hi Blog.  Bringing this old article up as a matter of record:  I mentioned on back in early 2008 about a Swiss woman who came to Japan as a tourist and was arrested on drug charges.  She got acquitted not once but twice in Japanese courts, yet was not released on bail because NJ and are considered more of a flight risk.  While actual convicted felons are released in the interim if they are Japanese.

Again, foreigners aren’t allowed bail in Japan. Unlike Japanese: When Japanese defendants appeal guilty verdicts, they are not detained (see Horie Takafumi and Suzuki Muneo; the latter, now convicted of corruption twice over, is still on the streets, even re-elected to the Diet!).

So despite being incarcerated as an innocent NJ since 2008, she finally gets booted out for “overstaying her visa” (oh, sure, she could have gone to Immigration any time and renewed, right?) and barred from reentry.  Rights of the defendant and “Hostage Justice” depending on your nationality.  What a swizz.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Held despite acquittal, now barred from re-entry, woman slams legal system
The Japan Times, Friday, Oct. 10, 2008, courtesy of MMT (excerpt)

CHIBA (Kyodo) A Swiss woman who was detained by Japanese authorities for seven months after being acquitted of a drug charge expressed anger over the Japanese legal system in a recent written message to Kyodo News.

“I was put under continuous detention because of shortfalls in Japanese law and alien policies,” wrote Klaudia Zaberl. “I have been filled with despair and anger.”

Upon arriving in Japan from Malaysia as a tourist in October 2006, Zaberl, 29, was arrested for allegedly smuggling about 2.2 kg of amphetamines hidden in a suitcase into Narita airport.

She denied the allegation, saying she was not aware the suitcase she had been handed by a stranger in return for money contained the drugs, but was later indicted.

The Chiba District Court cleared Zaberl of the charge in August 2007, saying there was reasonable doubt she was aware of the drugs.

However, following the ruling she was transferred to an immigration facility instead of being freed, as her visa had expired during her detention.

Prosecutors soon appealed the ruling and obtained court permission to detain her again to block her deportation.

In April, the Tokyo High Court ruled that she was not guilty of the charges, leading prosecutors to drop the case. She returned to Switzerland later in April.

Rest of the article at:

9 comments on “Swiss woman acquitted of crimes yet denied bail due to being NJ, then barred as “visa overstayer” anyway

  • The sentence “Foreigners aren’t allowed bail in Japan.” is slightly untrue.

    The truth is “99% of the time, foreigners aren’t allowed bail in Japan.”

    How do I know? I’m the lucky 1%. The exception. I was released on 2 million yen bail.

    I was allowed to live with my Japanese wife and children while we waited for my final court date.

    And the final court date gave me a suspended sentence, also extremely rare for foreigners.

    Here’s the reason why I became the lucky 1% granted bail and probation:

    I admitted the bad thing I did, and added there was no excuse,
    I sincerely, truly from my heart, apologized for the bad thing I did,
    and I vowed I will never do such a thing again for the rest of my life.

    I don’t expect a cookie from Debito readers for sharing my experience.

    I just want to let you know how a foreigner can be allowed bail and probation.

    — Not if you are innocent and you claim as such. As the Swiss woman did. And the court agreed. Twice. You didn’t. Bravo, I guess. But it’s still Hostage Justice.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • A Man In Japan says:

    If she was innocent, then why didn’t her embassy help her? Are embassy’s just a decoration over here? Do they actually HELP anyone who is in serious trouble? This needs to be looked into.

  • Replying to A Man In Japan, some embassies don’t really do much for you, other than lending a supposedly sympathetic ear and promising they’ll look into things. On the other hand I wonder what the Swiss embassy could have done if they got involved, anyway. Japan doesn’t seem like the country to allow foreign influences to “meddle” in their justice system.

  • “Again, foreigners aren’t allowed bail in Japan. Unlike Japanese: When Japanese defendants appeal guilty verdicts, they are not detained (see Horie Takafumi and Suzuki Muneo; the latter, now convicted of corruption twice over, is still on the streets, even re-elected to the Diet!).”

    Depends on the crime.

    According to the stats, out of the 12,220 charged with 覚せい剤取締法, only 987 were awarded bail.

    No stats on the specific white collar crimes there but looking at the stats, it’s clearly evident that Japanese legal system does not typically award bail.

  • Alexander says:

    My impression of the Japanese legal system is that bail is generally avoided at all costs. When bail is awarded, it is generally (and somewhat ironically) because the defendant has confessed and agreed to plead guilty. Even in the case of Horie Takafumi, he spent a long time in detention with bail denied several times.

    — But it was still granted. And I don’t think he pled guilty.

  • The Swiss woman ADMITTED that in return for money she brought a stranger’s suitcase into Japan, YET she keeps DENYING knowledge of what was inside, so the Judges feel obliged to rule that “there is still reasonable doubt that she was aware of the contents.”

    Wait, WHY did she agree to receive money in return for bringing a stranger’s suitcase into Japan? Sorry, this is not the kind of action we should be rallying to support.

    And Osayuwamen Idubo ADMITTED that he DID have “consensual” sex with his accuser, but before he finally admitted that fact in court, he wasted everyone’s time and energy by initially DENYING that they had sex.

    Debito, if you will simply black out the names (takes 5 minutes) and repost the document, everyone can read for themselves that Idubor admitted that he had “consensual” sex with his accuser. I know you’re not trying to hide this fact, you probably just didn’t read the document thoroughly. Rita asked for confirmation about this fact twice on February 18th, 2008 As it happens, I did have the time to read the document thoroughly before you took it down, and I was SHOCKED to see Idubor did admit the “consensual” sex, after initially denying for so long.

    Again, I can’t really rally to defend a woman who claims “I didn’t know what was inside the suitcase that a stranger paid me to smuggle.” nor a man who claims “I didn’t have sex with that woman” for so long before finally admitting, “OK, yes, I did have sex with the woman, but… it was consensual.” After all his initial lying how can we believe him now?

    It’s a pity too, because probably it WAS consensual, he should have just told the truth right from the start.

    In America, the legal system rewards the act of denying everything. In Japan, the legal system rewards the act of admitting the truth.

    — Or of at least rewards cooperating and admitting guilt.

    As for the Idubor Case, I posted the documentation in the condition as Idubor’s lawyer gave me. I cannot black out the names because my Adobe software isn’t a version which will allow me. Feel free to black out the names yourself and send to me at if you want.

    As for the Swiss woman, your presumption of her guilt or innocence is irrelevant. The court exonerated her. Twice. Yet she was not allowed to leave incarceration. That is a flaw in the system. And it would not happen if the defendant was Japanese. That is the point. Stick to it.

  • Thank you for rationally reminding me to stick to the important point, yes: the moment a judge rules a human not-guilty, that human must be released IMMEDIATELY.

    Thus, yes, your main point here is absolutely important and totally true: IT IS a travesty of justice that the court system did NOT release the Swiss woman immediately after the first non-guilty ruling.

    It would be irrational for me to attempt to add any kind of “But” qualification (like my second letter above seemed to be doing.) You’re right, no matter what the prosecutor thinks about the case, no matter what I think about the case, the simple fact is, as you are rationally reminding us: ANY human must be released IMMEDIATELY the moment a judge has ruled that human not-guilty.

    Thank you Debito, seriously, for having calmly put my focus back onto the main point, much respect to you. You’re doing good work, and I hope you continue to do so. We need to stay focused on the main point you are continually making, the reason why we continually read your blog and think about our deepest motivation: Equal Rights and Justice for ALL human beings.

    PS – about Idubor, nevermind, as you have helped me realize, even if Idubor DID eventually admit to consensual sex with the accuser, even if that DOES prove he lied many times at first, that fact DOES NOT excuse the fact that Idubor was imprisoned without sufficient proof of rape, and thus your main point remains valid in that case as well: another travesty of justice committed by the Japanese system against a human being due to the simple fact that the human being’s soul was born into a body that didn’t happen to have Japanese DNA.

    Thank you Debito, for bringing us back to the main point again and again: Equal Rights and Justice for ALL human beings.

  • As a correction – foreigners are, at least on occasion, given bail.

    I know of one American who was granted bail (albeit after several months incarceration). He is a long-term resident (15 or so years) of Japan, and was later convicted and is currently serving the last year or so of his sentence.

    As for the rest of this particular Swiss woman’s case, it, sadly, doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  • Friend Michael H. Fox comments:

    On May 10, 2010, at 10:11 PM, Michael H.Fox wrote:

    Bul, You are making specious claims about the criminal justice system in your blog

    Again, foreigners aren’t allowed bail in Japan.

    Absolutely incorrect. Foreigners on tourist or expired visas are not
    allowed bail. Others are depending on the severity of the charge.
    Steven Gan was bailed out, as was Ed Love.

    You also assume that all Japanese are allowed bail, which is not the
    case. Bail is allowed depending on the charge. If the crime carries
    more than a three year sentence, bail is usually not allowed. Bail is
    also denied if the arrest is politically motivated. The Yasuda attorney
    case, Oyaji-gari case, and Daikei-dai case (Rube’s place) come to mind.

    Speak Truth To Power!

    Michael H. Fox
    Japan Innocence and Death Penalty Information Center.


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