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Friday, Nov. 2, 2012

EDITORIAL

Justice for Mr. Mainali

In a Monday retrial of Mr. Govinda Prasad Mainali, a Nepalese man who had been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the March 1997 robbery-murder of a 39-year-old Tokyo woman, the prosecution reversed its position and stated that he is innocent. The Tokyo High Court will acquit him on Nov. 7.

Developments in the case revealed that the prosecution tried to hide evidence or to delay DNA tests on evidence. Only in September 2010 — 13 years after Mr. Mainali was put behind bars — did the prosecution reveal their possession of a piece of frozen gauze containing semen taken from the victim's body, which a subsequent DNA test revealed was not Mr. Mainali's. Despite its abhorrent conduct, the prosecution insists that it did not commit any errors and has refused to apologize. Its attitude must be strongly denounced. The court also erred in its judgement. The judiciary should examine its conduct and publicize the findings.

On June 7, the Tokyo High Court decided to retry Mr. Mainali on the basis of the semen's DNA test results. The court then ordered him released and he was deported to Nepal due to a prior conviction for visa violations. Monday's retrial was held in absentia.

The woman, a Tepco employee who engaged in prostitution on the side, was found dead in an apartment in Shibuya Ward on March 19, 1997. Mr. Mainali was arrested four days later after it was learned that he had a key to the apartment and semen in a condom found in the apartment's bathroom matched his DNA. Throughout the interrogations and trials Mr. Mainali insisted on his innocence.

In April 2000, the Tokyo District Court found him innocent, stating that it was not clear whether the condom was used around the time of the crime and that two of the four strands of hair found in the crime scene belonged to a third party. But the prosecutors appealed the decision and that December the Tokyo High Court found him guilty without fully examining the flaws in the prosecution's case that the lower court had pointed out and sentenced him to life in prison. The Supreme Court finalized the ruling in October 2003. Clearly both courts violated the principle that one is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In 2007, Mr. Mainali's lawyers called on the prosecution to examine the DNA of matter found under the woman's fingernails, but the prosecution refused. Only after the Tokyo High Court decided to retry Mr. Mainali did the prosecution carry out a DNA test in October 2012, apparently hoping that it would produce a result favorable to their case. But the DNA of the fingernail matter matched that of the semen found in the woman's body — which a July 2011 DNA test proved was not Mr. Mainali's — and that of the two hairs found in the apartment. This decisive finding forced the prosecution to admit in the retrial that he was innocent.

One of Mr. Mainali's lawyers pointed out in the retrial that only in the final stage of the trial in which the retrial was requested did the prosecution present an April 1997 report that revealed that saliva whose DNA did not match Mr. Mainali's had been detected on the woman's breasts. As Mr. Mainali's lawyer has demanded, a third-party body should be set up to fully examine the prosecution's conduct. The Diet also should enact a law to take punitive action against public prosecutors who fail to disclose all their evidence at the outset of a trial.



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