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March 27, 2014

Japan Court Orders Retrial for Man Sentenced to Die in 1968

by VOA News

A Japanese court has ordered the release and retrial of the world's longest-serving death row inmate, who was sentenced to die in 1968.

The Shizuoka District Court said it is possible investigators fabricated evidence that led to the conviction of Iwao Hakamada, who is now 78.

Hakamada has been in jail since age 30. He was convicted of murdering a family of four and setting fire to their home in central Japan.

Judge Hiroaki Murayama said, given questions about the evidence, it is "unjust" that Hakamada, a former boxer, continue to be confined.

Hakamada's sister, Hideko, who helped win her brother's release, was thrilled at the decision.

"It's all thanks to all our support and help. All I can say is that I am really happy," said Hideko.

Hakamada, a former boxer, originally admitted to the murder. He later retracted his confession, saying he was tortured during interrogation.

His first appeal for a retrial was filed in 1981. It took 27 years to process, and was eventually rejected. The latest appeal was filed in 2008.

Prosecutors told Japanese media that they are still deciding whether to appeal the latest decision.

Hakamada is just the sixth death row inmate to receive a retrial in postwar Japan. Four of the five who have were acquitted.

Amnesty International is urging prosecutors to accept the retrial decision, calling his extended period of detention on death row "torture."