Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Ex-Boxer in Japan Retrial: 46 Years on Death Row

Shizuoka, Japan – Japanese prosecutors are once again seeking the death penalty for Iwao Hakamada in his retrial. Hakamada, now 88, spent an astonishing 46 years on death row after being convicted of robbery and murder in 1968. Despite his release in 2014, a new trial was ordered due to concerns about possible evidence tampering by investigators.

During the retrial in Shizuoka, prosecutors argued that Hakamada’s guilt could be proven “beyond reasonable doubt.” In contrast, defense lawyers are advocating for his acquittal, emphasizing the significant toll Hakamada’s lengthy detention took on his mental health.

The retrial, which began last year, is expected to conclude with a verdict in the coming months. Hakamada’s case has garnered attention and support from various individuals, including fellow boxers and organizations like Amnesty International.

Following a brutal police interrogation that included beatings, Hakamada initially denied the charges but later confessed. Despite attempts to retract his confession, his original verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1980. However, Hakamada persisted in maintaining his innocence, with his sister Hideko fervently advocating for a review of his case.

In a development that drew widespread sympathy, a district court in Shizuoka granted a retrial in 2014, leading to a stay on Hakamada’s incarceration and the death penalty. Subsequent legal proceedings saw a back-and-forth struggle, culminating in a retrial being ordered by the High Court in 2020.

Supporters of Hakamada point to key pieces of evidence, such as blood-stained clothing, as insufficient to definitively prove his guilt. Despite efforts to review his case and secure a new trial, the debate surrounding the death penalty in Japan remains divisive, with a government survey indicating limited support for its abolition in 2019.

With a total of 107 prisoners on death row as of December, the practice of hanging remains the method of carrying out death sentences in Japan. The impending nature of executions, often communicated to inmates with little warning, underscores the enduring controversy and ethical considerations surrounding the death penalty in the country.