Japanese Justice

An anonymous German studying at a Masters course somewhere in Japan wrote this long and disturbing account of his false arrest for selling drugs.

The whole process culminated when after about hour and a half of searching my apartment a “Translator” came to talk to me. He was speaking a strange language (which turned out to be Farsi) and after it became obvious that I do not understand him, he left. At this point there was a bit of confusion but the person that seemed to be in charge said “He understands some Japanese so arrest him in Japanese” and they did so. At that time they showed me the “Arrest Warrant” and said they were arresting me for “selling JPY10,000 of Marijuana and JPY5,000 of Cocaine to Nakada Masakazu on October 15th of 2001.” They did not inform me of any of my rights or of the normal procedure. Since I am a bit familiar with American Judicial system through study and movies, I asked whether I am entitled to make one phone-call. At least I could do, I thought, is instruct my girlfriend to contact my embassy and potentially look for a lawyer. However, I was denied. After taking several essentials (they told me that I will be gone for only couple of days) with me I was taken away. To summarize, I was not told of any rights I might have (right to remain silent, right to a lawyer, etc.) at the point of arrest.

Two things strike me in particular when reading this story.

First, I’m somewhat amused that a German seemd to be basing his legal expectations on reruns of “Law and Order,” when Japan’s legal code is in fact based on Germanic civil law and not Anglo-American law at all.

Second, based on other accounts of the Japanese justice system I have read, he does not seem to have been treated particularly different because he was a foreigner. Of course, this is hardly a time to be all lovey-dovey about internationalization in Japan, since it only reinforces how ridiculously bad Japan’s criminal investigatory procedures are, and how little respect is given to anyone accused of a crime, regardless of evidence or alibi.

Luckily, this particular victim was released without charges, and his university was understanding enough to allow him an extension on his thesis. The bad news: he never even got to see the evidence against him, an official notice of dismissal, or even an official record of his arrest.

[Update] Joe suggests in a comment that the original author of the story may not be German after all. Having just ran the German introduction through Google translator, it does seem possible.

my friend on English has 23 days in the Japanese Knast the following report over his meeting with the Japanese law machine wrote down. Only now, several years later, he permitted me to publish it here (names all changed). My friend was arrested by the Japanese police, when the police looked for its Iranian house neighbour in Tokyo for an accomplice, that had been indicated as Drogendealer. The informant had described the accomplice as a “foreigner with glatze” – applied also to my friend. That and the house neighbourhood should also the none indications remain, which could supply police and public prosecutor’s office during the 23 days, which mean it friend held. The Iranian had pulled at all only for a long time after the informant had observed him and the accomplice, into the apartment in the house of my friend. At the latest this chronological discrepancy would have means friend back on free foot to bring to have. Not so in Japan. Nobody felt responsible. It was more important to all involved ones to protect the face and to pull the once angeleierte Tretmuehle through up to the bitter end, than help an obviously innocent one to its right. It becomes completely clear also that the responsible persons a wrong confession of my friend would have come very much zupass – even at the price that the true accomplice would then sell further unimpaired drugs.

At least I can safely guess what “Drogendealer” means.

2 thoughts on “Japanese Justice”

  1. 1) I’m not sure if the author is German; the site’s German author seems to be saying that this is his anonymous English-speaking friend’s story.

    2) I don’t like the system myself, but I wouldn’t call it “bad.” Whereas the US likes to err on the side of the suspect, Japan likes to err on the side of the cops and prosecutors. I know a few DA’s who can’t stand the way the American criminal justice system works because they have to watch obviously guilty people slip through their fingers.

    Of course, the Japanese alternative isn’t too appetizing either; you’d think they would at least offer an apology.

  2. I thought reading the story that the guy was of Middle-Eastern descent (since he initially was offered a Farsi interpreter, for instance) who perhaps had lived in Germany for a bit, thus the German website. I did find the references to expecting the J-satsu to behave like those in US movies rather funny too.

    To me, the lack of decent support for non-fluent speakers was the point that came across most strongly – he didn’t seem too concerned with having been banged up for 20 days! He also seemed to have rather a useless lawyer, or are prosecutors really as desparate for a conviction as the story suggests?

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