A roommate of a Nepalese man granted a retrial after serving 15 years of a life sentence for a murder he says he did not commit has given an explosive account of police tactics that caused him to give false testimony against his friend.
Police brutality to force confessions is an all-too-familiar story in Japan.
But in this case, the roommate said that after enduring physical abuse, police did something extraordinary: They went out of their way to find him a job even though they knew he was staying illegally in Japan.
Lila Bahadur Raya, 38, told The Asahi Shimbun in an interview that he was so terrified after police seized him by the neck and punched him in the stomach that he was ready to say anything that would go against his friend's protestations of innocence.
Govinda Prasad Mainali, 45, was convicted in 2000 of killing a woman in March 1997 who lived in a nearby apartment and worked for Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Mainali, who all along said he was innocent of wrongdoing, was granted a retrial last week after serving 15 years in prison.
Raya now lives in the United States, but at the time of the slaying he shared a room with four others in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. They lived in a building adjacent to the crime scene.
In addition to granting a retrial on June 7, the Tokyo High Court ordered Mainali to be released immediately and his sentence suspended.
"The police ruined his life," Raya said. "They must apologize. My experience (during police interrogation) felt like torture. They didn't listen to me because I am a 'gaijin' (foreigner)."
One of the detectives who took part in the investigations told The Asahi Shimbun: "It is my understanding that no violence was used during the interrogation, nor any introduction of a job given. We believed (Raya) had teamed up with Mainali to tell lies."
Mainali was initially arrested March 23 on suspicion of illegally overstaying his visa. Raya said he was also questioned by Tokyo police day after day.
The slaying occurred on the night of March 8. Since the murder occurred in a vacant room, police believed the perpetrator must have had a key to unlock the door.
Mainali had borrowed the key from the janitor shortly before the murder.
According to Raya, he told police he returned the key on March 6 after Mainali asked him to do so.
But the police kept telling him that Mainali himself must surely have returned the key on March 10. It was then that Raya said he was subjected to physical abuse. He said he was so fearful, he signed a police statement that implicated Mainali.
After the series of interrogations, Raya said police found him a job at a consumer loan company in Tokyo even though he was illegally living in Japan.
Raya worked for a month and said he was paid about 300,000 yen ($3,760 at today’s exchange rates). He said the police told him to stay away from his Nepalese pals.
The December 2000 conviction that overturned a lower court ruling dismissed Raya's account of returning the key on March 6. The court said his evidence could not be trusted.
Raya expressed joy that Mainali had finally won a retrial.
"I'm so happy to hear that. He was hardworking and sending money to build a family home in Nepal. I never doubted him."
- « Prev
- Next »