Tag Archives: Japan

Report from our September meeting

20 Sep

image001Matsumoto Kenji of Japan has been on death row since 1993 – twenty three years. Appeals on his behalf have been turned down; he could be executed at any time.

Prison conditions for those condemned to death in Japan are harsh: they are held in solitary confinement, visitors are infrequent, exercise is limited to two or three sessions a week, and they must remain seated in their cells. Little wonder that Matsumoto, now 65, has become delusional; he is now in a wheelchair. He has had from birth an intellectual disability, related to mercury poisoning, with an IQ of no more than 70.

We wrote on his behalf to the Minister of Justice, pleading for mercy and a moratorium on executions in Japan, and to the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare with concerns about his health.

We held a stall on Castle Green on 16 July, highlighting the issues of Female Genital Mutilation and Early Forced Marriage, with particular reference to Burkino Faso and Sierra Leone. The event was very successful, raising £178.90 in donations from the public; this has since been doubled by the UK government and so the sum of £357.80 has been sent to Amnesty International UK to support its work in this area. We are very grateful to everyone who made donations and also signed a petition concerning these issues.

Susan Mew of the Minehead Group will be speaking at our October meeting (11th October) on Amnesty’s Global Refugee Campaign. We meet at 7.30pm on the second Tuesday of the month at the Quaker Meeting House in Bath Place, Taunton. Visitors are very welcome.

Making a Murderer and Matsumoto Kenji: The truth can be stranger than fiction

9 Mar

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Does this set of circumstances sound familiar?

·         A man from a poor background, with an IQ below 70; a score so low that he has difficulty comprehending what is happening to him.
·         His implication in a serious crime, in which a dominant older relative was the prime suspect.
·         A confession extracted by police after hours of intense interrogation, a confession which was subsequently described as ‘coercive’ by the man’s lawyers.

Well, if you’ve been watching the Netflix documentary ‘Making a Murderer’ you may be thinking of the case of Brendan Dassey who, at the age of 16, confessed to assisting his uncle in a rape and murder after hours of intense police questioning. No lawyer was present during the interrogation, nor was his mother, despite the fact that he was a minor.

Brendan Dassey is not the only young man spending a very long time in prison after being convicted of a crime following a confession extracted in contentious circumstances.

In 1993 Matsumoto Kenji – along with his older brother – was arrested and charged with a double murder in Japan. Kenji has an IQ of between 60 and 70, allegedly caused by Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) which was common in the prefecture in which he was born, around the time he was born. As a result of the condition Kenji suffered from seriously hampered cognitive function.

Amnesty has serious concerns about Kenji’s treatment at the hands of the police. His interrogation has been described at coercive, as officers offered him food if he talked and told him to “be a man” during the interrogation.

Upon learning of a warrant being issued for his arrest, his brother killed himself and Kenji was left to face trial alone. During his trial it was accepted by the court that he was totally dependent upon his brother and was unable to stand up to him. Following his conviction he was sentenced to death, a sentence which has been repeatedly upheld in subsequent appeals.

Unfortunately, Kenji’s mental health has deteriorated significantly on death row, to the point that he has developed a delusional disorder. His lawyers have argued that he is currently unable to communicate or understand information pertinent to his case and they further believe that his isolation has contributed significantly to his deteriorating mental health condition.

Kenji’s case is currently under review for appeal and the Minister of Justice will be the key decision-maker. If you have a moment, please write to him and call for him not to execute Kenji. Visit the Death Penalty page of our website to find out where to write. Thank you.

Report from our October meeting

21 Oct

468x283_kenji_matsumoto_japanIn Japan, Matsumoto Kenji could be hanged any day now, and he does not know why. He has been on death row for over 20 years. He was sentenced to death in the early nineties for robberies and murders committed with his brother (who killed himself in detention). Matsumoto has had a mental disability and low IQ from birth, allegedly caused by mercury poisoning. Despite this, he was ruled mentally competent and his sentence confirmed in 2000.

We wrote to the Japanese Minister of Justice asking her to commute Matsumoto’s death sentence, to improve the treatment of death row prisoners and introduce a moratorium on the death penalty. You can send an email to the Japanese authorities asking them not to execute him by clicking here.

We have begun to work on behalf of our new Burmese Prisoners of Conscience, five journalists on the Unity newspaper, sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for ‘disclosing state secrets’ in an article on an alleged secret chemical weapons factory. Unity has been forced to close after the imprisonment of most of its staff; their sentencing has had a chilling, intimidating effect on journalists working in Burma.

We meet at 8pm on the second Tuesday of the month in the Silver Street Baptist Church, Taunton. All are welcome.

Report from our June meeting

15 Jun

The life of a 10-year-old girl, pregnant after being raped by her stepfather, is in danger in Paraguay. Despite the high risk this pregnancy poses, and her mother’s request, Paraguayan authorities have denied her access to a safe abortion. We signed letters to the Attorney General and President of Paraguay pleading for swift action in this distressing case.

We also signed letters to the Japanese authorities for Hakamado Iwao, the Japanese man who, until his provisional release last year, had been on death row for 46 years, living under the constant fear of execution, never knowing from one day to the next whether he was going to be put to death. This adds psychological torture to an already cruel and inhumane punishment. At 79, he now awaits a possible re-trial.

Dr. Tun Aung

Dr. Tun Aung

On a happier note, the Group were delighted to read the letter that Dr Tun Aung (left), our now released Burmese Prisoner of Conscience, had written to Amnesty:

‘When I was arbitrarily arrested and sentenced, Amnesty was the first organization I thought of and I hoped in some way it would work for my release….I started receiving some letters from Amnesty International members. It was the first flicker of light in my dark days…. The extent of the campaign and hundreds of personal letters written to me and my family made me very emotional and humbled.’

Our next meeting is at 8pm on Tuesday 14th July at the Silver Street Baptist Church, Taunton. We look forward to seeing you there.

Japan – please don’t send Hakamada back to death row

19 Oct

hakamadaHakamada Iwao‘s freedom is hard-won, but it could be lost at any moment.

After 46 years on Japan’s death row, he was freed in March and granted a retrial based on new DNA evidence that could prove his innocence.

Now prosecutors are appealing his retrial – they want to send the 78-year-old back to death row.

Please ask them to drop the appeal.

Justice For Hakamada

28 Dec

 Hakamada IwaoThis is Hakamada Iawo as a young man.  He is now 77 years old and is the world’s longest-serving death row prisoner.  He has spent 45 years in prison since his trial in 1968 and always maintained his innocence.

The main evidence used to convict Hakamada was a confession, allegedly obtained under torture and later retracted.  One of the trial judges, Kumamoto Norimichi, maintains that Hakamada is innocent and believes that he should not have sentenced Hakamada to death on such limited evidence.

Despite such grave doubts, Hakamada continues to await execution every day.  New DNA evidence could finally prove his claim of innocence right. Click here to ask Japan to grant him a retrial.

 

Please take action for Hakamada Iwao

24 Jun

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Hakamada Iwao is 77 years old. He has spent the majority of his life on death row, awaiting execution every day for a crime he claims he did not commit.  Hakamada is said to be suffering from a severe mental illness as a result of many years spent in solitary confinement. New DNA evidence could reinforce his claims of innocence. Please help us to ask for a retrial for Hakamada.

Click here to write to the Minister of Justice Sadakazu Tanigaki and call for Hakamada’s execution to be stayed.

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