Per Bodner, a professional photo journalist from Sweden (8 years resident in Japan, married with a house here), had a nasty experience in a Tokyo taxicab right outside the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on his way home from work November 28.
He was arrested because the taxi driver had a spaz attack about him allegedly smoking in the cab (even though Per doesn’t smoke, and wonders if his irritability was a side effect of prolonged use of anti-sleep medicine–not unusual in Japan’s drivers). When Per got out and tried to take another taxi, the cab driver called the cops, claimed Per assaulted him, and had him arrested. There was no evidence of any beating, but Per was taken to a holding cell for interrogation in Tsukiji.
The point is this: Like the Idubor Case, where a Nigerian was sentenced last December to three years for rape despite no physical evidence and flawed accuser testimony, it is becoming increasingly clear that in the Japanese judiciary, the accused’s testimony is discounted (even ignored, or in Per’s view, fabricated) in order to get a conviction. And it especially seems to be the case when the accused is a foreigner, even one as mild-mannered and upstanding as Per is (I’ve met him).
If this can happen to him, this can happen to you–where a nutbar or a person with a “thing” about foreigners can claim you committed a crime, sic the police on you, and have you interrogated for weeks until you crack and sign some sort of confession.
Even when lawyers (which Per managed to contact despite the best efforts of his prosecutors) sprung him in an unheard-of three days (in my view, due to his status as a member of the international press corps), the Prosecutor overruled the judge! See below.
Let’s turn the keyboard over to Per and let him tell the story in his own words. What follows is the text of the statement he made at an FCCJ Press Conference on December 12, 2007, 2-3:30PM, with Panel Discussion on Police Interrogations and “Daiyo Kangoku”, featuring his lawyer, Kazuko Ito; Shinichiro Koike, Secretary General of the Japanese Federation of Bar Association’s Penal Reform Committee and Toru Matsuoka, a DPJ Lower House supporting a bill aimed at revising the Criminal Procedure Code to oblige police and prosecutors to videotape all interrogation of suspects in criminal investigations.
Arudou Debito at the FCCJ, Yurakucho, Tokyo
THE GINZA / TSUKIJI INCIDENT 071128… By Per Bodner
Welcome my name is Per Bodner I am a Swedish photojournalist and regular member of the FCCJ. I will briefly tell you about what happened to me after taking a taxi, and having a verbal quarrel with the driver. I ended up arrested, thus having a chance of peaking into the Japanese police and “justice” system. I have prepared some handouts for all of you: rather than going into details, I will try to cut my presentation to the essential, leaving more space to the question time.
But – first of all – I will recommend everyone here who does not already have an Olympic medal – For your own sake – Go and get one as soon as possible!
I will later explain to you why.
Around eight thirty on the evening of Wednesday 28 of November on my way home after visiting the FCCJ I had trouble, after entering a taxi, with the driver who very aggressively and repeatedly started shouting “NO SMOKING – NO SMOKING”.
As I don’t smoke I got surprised over his shouting the same thing over and over again – NO SMOKING, NO SMOKING. I replied several times to him “OK, OK, FINE NO SMOKING and showed him my empty hands. But he was clearly upset and I decided to get out and to get another cab.
When he finally opened my door, I tried to get another taxi. But they refused. In the meantime, the first driver had called the police. He claims that I have been beating him with my fist once and also kicking him on the leg once. He also claims he has a witness, although I saw none and, until today, I am still unaware of his/her name.
Now let me state very clearly than I am not guilty of any beating or kicking. I have not been beating anyone during my whole life and have no criminal record what so ever – anywhere in the world.
But I do admit (and did so during the questioning) that having become angry I did shout rough words back to him in English in a loud and clear voice.
Police then asked me to follow them to the police station. I did not object to this and went with them without protesting.
2. Treatment at the Tsukiji police station.
After arriving at the Tsukiji police station I was questioned for what it felt like – an endless time, at least 5 hours, without any legal assistance. They allowed me only one phone call, to my Embassy. But since it was late night, I just got somebody who promised to inform the competent officer later in the morning. The police took my fingerprints from each and every of my fingers, palm and the “heal of the hand”.
I got an interpreter and very slowly and with sarcastic smiles from the staff standing around while I answered their questions they interrogated me. Police officers walked in and out of the room during the interrogation witch was very disturbing and annoying.
At around 2:00 AM, they told me that I was going to be held in detention.
This came as a shock to me and I got very upset and I could no longer behave politely or constructive.
At one time I managed to pick up my mobile phone and quickly call my wife to inform her about that I was arrested and where I was – but an officer jumped at me to take away the phone. I managed to push him away and could finish my quick call.
I felt totally humiliated and lost in the middle of all these nasty, arrogant and aggressive policemen.
I was then taken to another room where they took away my belongings except for my pullover, socks and underwear. I was then handed a pair of sports long pants.
My own had a string in them so they were also taken.
At the table of this room were four or five A4 sheets of paper containing rules and “rights” in detention. I had no chance to even start to study these papers before they told me to take off my belongings and no further reading of the rules and “rights” was allowed after this. Then I was shown into a cell where another four inmates were asleep. Time was now around 3:30- 4:00AM I guess.
3. Environment at the Tsukiji police station detention
I think I can recall 8 detention cells at this floor in this police station where I now was. Each cell containing 5 or more inmates. The area of each sell is approximately
8 x 2,3 m including a toilet box with a glass window facing the sell and the guards seated at a desk outside of the cells – day and night. There are no furnishes in the sells only a worn down wall-to-wall carpet on which the inmates lay their Futon at night.
Food is given 3 times a day through a hole in the cell wall and taken in sitting on the cell floor with the food on an oil-cloth on the floor. The menu, which I listed in the hand outs, was neither appealing nor abundant, but I guess this won’t be much different in any other country.
Breakfast: Japanese type. Lukewarm, very thin powder soup. Cold rice in a Bento box with a red little tiny sour-plum in the middle symbolizing the Japanese flag. Cold artificial fish or meat with some sad over boiled vegetables. Lukewarm or cold water. (Teeth brushing before breakfast)!!!
Lunch: 2 dry and tasteless breads with butter and jam. Cold or lukewarm water.
Dinner: Cold Bento with cold rice, lukewarm or cold water.
Sleeping: 9:00PM – 6:30AM with lights on. Inmates fetch their Futon from a bedclothes room and bring it to the cell.
Washing and tooth brushing: in cold water morning and before bed (only face and neck).
Shower: only every 5th day!!!
At 09AM inmates can shave with shavers and smokers can smoke 2 cigarettes once a day.
Books in Japanese except for 2 cheap detective-story books in English.
(We used the books as pillows during the long day).
07 -11-30 Going to the Prosecutor’s office
After breakfast I and some other inmates were asked out of our cells to be searched and then handcuffed and bonded to a blue rope. This was particularly humiliating.
Off we went in a chain-gang, like dangerous criminals, down the stairs and out into a waiting police-bus that would take us to Tokyo Public Prosecutor Office to meet with the prosecutor. After an hour or so we arrived there. We were searched once again and lead on the chain-gang into a huge room with 14 (I think I can recall) cells on one of the long walls. Each cell with capacity for 12 inmates to sit on hard, cold wooden benches (90° seat and back). The numbers 1-12 on the walls. Behind a tiny, low swinging door in the cell there is a toilet and a water tap all to bee seen by the inmates and the guards. No one is aloud to speak or move from one’s place. Here we waited for many hours before meeting with the prosecutor in a special room for a very short questioning. Back to the very cold cell on B-2 I had the chance to meet with my lawyer and my colleague Pio, who was not admitted as such, but as interpreter. At the end of the day into the huge hall and searched again then your number (Ju NaNa) (seventeen) called out in a horrible screaming militaristic voice and back in to the chain-gang again.
Transport with the same procedures as before and back to Tsukiji police station.
Arriving late and dinner was waiting for us. The other inmates had already had their dinner. Back into the cell and a bad sleep on the futon with blankets. Now it was too hot to sleep.
07-12-01 Tokyo District Court
The following morning we had to make a long (2 hours +) tour to pick up inmates from other police stations around Tokyo. Then we were able to meet – twice – with a judge, the first time for an interview, second time for getting to know if you were to be released from detention or not. Among all inmates that was interrogated that day I was lucky to be one out of two who was to be released that day. I heard from my lawyer that normally no one is released after the first 3 days in detention but rather most have to stay the whole 23 days or even more in detention. I was happy and relieved, in fact the judge, through the interpret, told me that I had to go back to Tsukiji with the chain-gang transport but after arriving there I would get my belongings and then walk out free.
But the nightmare went on. After returning to Tsukiji police station I got the shocking message that the prosecutor had appealed the judges decision and most likely I had to stay for a longer time in detention. This message made me feel very bad and I was close to start crying.
To my surprise – about 6 hours later – I was called out from the cell and told that I could go home. The judge had stood tall and rejected the prosecutors’ request. I was told that this does not happen often here, if it happens at all!
My lawyer Ito-san and Pio were there to meet me. I had to sign a document saying that I had received all my belongings and happy from being released I signed. Later I found out that a handkerchief that I had blown my nose in once – was missing. The question came to my mind: – Do they take my DNA from my handkerchief?
When we got down to the reception of the police station – there was my wife, our former FCCJ president Dennis and four Swedish nice people that I did not know from before (Pio had picked them up and asked them to join the celebration of my release).
They had brought a bottle of champagne witch we haply finished outside the Tsukiji police station.
Interrogation continues on a “voluntary” basis…
Early last week I was asked by the police to come to Tsukiji police station to undergo further questioning. They said that 2 hours would be enough and my lawyer informed me about the right not to sign any document and to leave the police station at any time of my own choice. I was asked to appear on Friday the 7th of Dec. at 2PM and did so. I had my lawyer and a friend from FCCJ with me. “Just in case”. I just wanted to feel safe. None of these two persons was allowed to be present during the questioning. The police provided an interpreter, Japanese/English, who bore a police batch and told me he was a policeman.
The female police who put the questions to me (her colleges called her detective) was one of the polices that had been coming and going in and out of the room during my first interrogation at the night of the taxi incident.
The questioning lasted, not 2, but 3,5 hours. At that point I told them that I’ve had enough and was tired. When the interpreter told me what the detective had been righting down from my answers I could understand that every, for me positive answer, had not been mentioned.
For example to the question about my background I had answered that I come from and still, most of the time, move in a rather intellectual environments, with good literature and music and where we solve our controversies by talking, not by fist- fighting, and that I never in my whole life have been beating anyone with my fist nor kicking and had newer belonged to any criminal or violent gang. None of these answers was ever written down in their interview with me. Nor that I was brought up by my mothers’ second husband who was, by that time, the chief prosecutor of my hometown.
One of the questions was if I ever had received any awards or medals. I asked that I did not really understand the question. To clarify they asked – If I had received any Olympic medals or governmental awards. My answer to this was that I did not find the question relevant to the investigation.
A few days ago I received a letter from the Tokyo District Court, with the decision rejecting the public prosecutor appeal to extend my detention. I had a glance at the public prosecutor report that was attached and asked my wife to translate it for me.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Most of its content, related to my answer and behaviour during the questioning is totally false. I have prepared a very rough translation of it, which cannot be used for official quoting, but that will give all of you a sufficient idea. The report, among other things, states that I had refused to answer the questions about my background and my profession. This is a complete lie. I had answered very clearly and at length all the prosecutor’s questions, (except for the one about Olympic medals).
I must confess my very strong feeling that police and prosecutors are, more than in the quest for truth, on the hunt to hurt me.
Tomorrow I have agreed on attending yet another follow up questioning and have asked for a Swedish interpreter. I am not going to sign any papers!!!
My detention has already been reported to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I am going to ask my Swedish ambassador here in Tokyo to make a strong protest to The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to The Japanese Ministry of Justice.
I’d like to thank all my good friends at FCCJ and others for their support in this scary, confusing and weird situation.
UPDATE: Per has since been called for a third round of “voluntary” questioning by the prosecutor. His sources say the prosecutor could demand he be sentenced to a year in jail for this!