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World's oldest death row inmate awaits retrial

His name is Iwao Hakamada and he is a Japanese man who was sentenced to death for murder in 1966. He has become an iconic figure in the fight against the death penalty, and his conviction has been criticized by international human rights organizations.

Hakamada was a former boxer who worked in a miso factory. In 1966, he and four other factory workers were arrested and charged with the murder of a businessman and his family.

Despite the absence of physical evidence incriminating him, Hakamada was sentenced to death in 1968. Since then, Hakamada has spent most of his life in prison and has fought to prove his innocence.

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For 40 years a living hell
Iwao Hakamada is a Japanese man who was sentenced to death for murder. He has become an emblematic figure in the fight against the death penalty, and his conviction has been criticized by international human rights organizations. Hakamada is a former boxer who worked in a miso factory. When in 1966  Hakamada's boss, his wife and their two children were found stabbed to death in their house later burned down in Shizuoka, in central Japan, he was the prime suspect.
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The Conviction
The only clue, traces of gasoline and blood on one of his pajamas. Hakamada was charged with arson, robbery and multiple murder. He admitted everything in a confession that he later always described as "extorted" with violence and threats from the police. Even at the pre-trial stage of the trial, he recanted his confession. The judges did not believe him, and sentenced him to death.
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A glimmer after nearly 60 years
Since then, Hakamada has spent most of his life in prison and has fought to prove his innocence. In 2014, the Supreme Court of Japan overturned his death sentence and ordered a retrial. But in 2018, a new twist: On appeal by the prosecution, the Tokyo High Court questioned the reliability of the DNA tests and overturned the 2014 decision. Now Hakamada is 87 years old, and the Tokyo High Court has ordered a retrial of the case against him after nearly 60 years. Iwao Hakamada is the world's oldest death row inmate.
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The hope of relatives and associations
"I have waited for this day for 57 years and it has come," said Hideko, Hakamada's sister. Hideaki Nakagawa, director of Amnesty International Japan, said, "This sentence provides a long overdue opportunity to bring justice to Iwao Hakamada, who spent more than half a century under a death sentence despite the clear unfairness of the trial that convicted him."
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The 2014 recognition
Iwao, Hideko Hakamada's sister on April 6, 2014 received a WBC honor championship belt from a Japanese professional boxing association in Tokyo. Iwao Hakamada then was 78 years old. And he was already the world's longest-serving death row inmate. He had been temporarily released and awaits a retrial in Japan.
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The current situation in Japan
In recent years, requests for retrial have increased in the Japanese archipelago. This is because of changes in the judicial system, including the implementation of popular juries for serious crimes and the fact that prosecutors must present material evidence to the defense. In the past this was not done, with the result that confessions were used as evidence.
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20/06/2024
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