Saturday, November 05, 2005

Nagoya guards who killed inmate set free

From the Japan Times:
Nagoya guards guilty but walk
Court rules that deadly hosing was 'cleaning'

NAGOYA -- The Nagoya District Court gave two prison guards who killed an inmate by spraying him with a high-pressure water hose suspended sentences Friday, ruling they had not intended to hurt the prisoner.

The pair received suspended sentences for the December 2001 incident at Nagoya Prison, which drew global condemnation and led the government to improve prison conditions.

Mikio Otomaru, 49, was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for four years, for spraying a 43-year-old inmate with a high-pressure hose. The man was serving time for robbery.

Masahiro Takami, 45, received a 14-month prison term, suspended for three years, for assisting Otomaru in the attack.

Both may appeal their sentences, their lawyers said following the ruling.

According to the ruling, the two guards, along with a third guard -- who was also given a suspended sentence last year-- pulled down the pants of the inmate and sprayed water into his rectum in December 2001.

The inmate died the following morning from bacterial shock after suffering severe injuries to his rectum.

The guards had pleaded not guilty, claiming they were simply carrying out their work and trying to wash the inmate.

Presiding Judge Hideki Shibata backed the defense argument that they were trying to clean the inmate and rejected prosecutors' allegations they were inflicting unnecessary punishment.

Prosecutors had asked for a four-year sentence for Otomaru and 18 months for Takami, saying, "The act was aimed at punishing rather than correcting the inmate."

Despite handing down the suspended sentences, the judge said, "It was done in an inadequate way that amounts to assault."

He went on: "The defendants' acts were dangerous and illegal abuse against the inmate. Moreover, they damaged public trust toward corrections administration. It can be easily presumed that the inmate died as a result of the water discharge."

In May, after widespread criticism over the death, the government revamped the prison law for the first time in nearly a century, revising the 1908 code to spell out the rights of prisoners and require human rights training for prison guards.

After the scandal broke, Amnesty International said a lack of transparency in the penal system had allowed prisons to impose arbitrary and sometimes cruel rules.

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