KATHMANDU: A Nepalese migrant worker who spent 15 years in a Japanese jail for a murder he did not commit claims he was tortured while incarcerated and has urged Tokyo to reform its police and prison system.
Govinda Prasad Mainali was waiting tables in an Indian restaurant in the Japanese capital, sending money home to his family in Kathmandu, when he was arrested on suspicion of strangling Yasuko Watanabe in 1997.
Watanabe had been an up-and-coming economist earning a comfortable salary and yet was reportedly living a double life as a sex worker who would walk Tokyo’s streets at night.
When her body was found in a sleazy downtown apartment, Mainali was charged with her murder and handed a life sentence.
In a scandal which has brought ignominy on Japan’s justice system and captivated Tokyo society, Mainali was acquitted in a retrial on Wednesday after 15 years in jail, as DNA evidence proved he could not have committed the crime.
“I was forced to undergo 15 years of horrible and torturous time in jail despite being innocent,” Mainali told reporters in Kathmandu after his acquittal.
“Had the DNA test not been conducted, I would have been languishing in jail and probably would have died there.”
Mainali, now 46, was deported to Nepal in June after his conviction was quashed and he was finally declared not guilty by the Tokyo High Court five months later.
The case has attracted lurid headlines and exposed Japan’s justice system to heavy criticism by rights campaigners.
Watanabe, who was 39 when she died, grew up in an affluent Tokyo neighbourhood, majored in economics and followed in the footsteps of her late father into the Tokyo Electric Power utility company.
She was a high-flyer but became frustrated as she felt she was passed over for promotions, author Shinichi Sano said in a best-seller book on the killing.
She began to work at night in a hostess bar, before turning to high-class prostitution.