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Thursday, June 9, 2011

EDITORIAL

More interrogation shenanigans

Amember of the Fukaya city assembly, Saitama Prefecture, who was elected in a March election, and his wife were arrested May 8 on suspicion of wining and dining supporters in mid-February. But on May 27, the Saitama District Public Prosecutors Office released them without deciding whether they should be prosecuted.

People questioned by the police in connection with the investigation of the case say that they were forced to put their seals on investigators' records of oral statements that did not agree with what actually happened.

Police doing the interrogation apparently acted in the same way as in past cases when false charges became an issue.

The police arrested the couple on suspicion of treating more than 20 supporters to food and drinks, worth several thousand yen for each person, in exchange for the supporters' commitment to secure votes for the city assembly candidate.

The couple's attorney said that the assembly candidate had sent invitation cards stating that the party fee was ¥3,000 each and that at least 24 of the 28 supporters who attended the party affirm that they paid the fee.

Nearly 20 people say that, during their police interrogation, officers forced them to put their seals on investigators' records of oral statements that said they did not pay the fee, the lawyer said, adding that several others resisted affixing their seals.

One supporter of the assembly member told Kyodo News that for several hours a police officer kept repeating things like "You did not pay the fee, did you?," "Only you are saying such a thing," or "If you put your seal on this, you will come to feel at ease." This person eventually gave up resisting the police pressure.

The fact that the prosecutors office released the arrested couple without any decision indicates that the case is virtually over. The case shows that the system for monitoring interrogation procedures that the police introduced in 2009 is not working.

Under this system, a police officer not involved in any investigation watches the interrogation through a "magic mirror" and stops it if it lasts too long, or if an investigator resorts to violence or the threat of violence. The officer also has authority to act on complaints from those interrogated.

This system has proven to be inadequate. The Fukaya case further strengthens the argument for videotaping the entire interrogation process.



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