Japan top court allows retrial for ‘longest’ death row prisoner

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s highest court has upheld a ruling granting a retrial to a man described as the world’s longest-serving death row inmate, a lawyer for the 84-year-old said yesterday.

Iwao Hakamada has lived under a death sentence for more than half a century, after being convicted of robbing and murdering his boss and his family.

But he and his supporters argue that he confessed to the crime after an allegedly brutal police interrogation that included beatings, and that evidence in the case was planted. He tried to retract his confession, but was sentenced to death in 1968, with the verdict confirmed by the Supreme Court in 1980.

However, in a rare about-face for Japan’s rigid justice system, a district court in the central city of Shizuoka in 2014 granted his request for a retrial.

The court said investigators could have planted evidence and ordered the former boxer freed, adding it was “unbearably unjust” to keep him detained pending the new trial.