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Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010

LIFELINES

Expecting death for 36 years; connecting with fellow Baha'i


By ANGELA JEFFS and KEN JOSEPH JR.

Death row record

ST is a member of Amnesty International. Now back in the U.K., she spent several years in Japan, and was horrified to read in a recent issue of Amnesty Magazine (issue 61, May/June 2010) that a Japanese man is believed to be the world's longest-serving death row inmate.

"I love Japan, but imagine waking every morning not knowing if this is the day you will be executed. No wonder his psychological state is described as 'fragile.' "

Iwao Hakamada, now aged 74, has spent the last 42 years in prison, 29 of them in solitary confinement. He was convicted of murder in 1974, largely on the basis of a confession he later withdrew.

It is now acknowledged by many — including a number inside the judicial system and a cross-party group of 57 Diet members — that the trial was unfair and he is most likely innocent.

ST points readers to a website concerning his case and appeals for help: www.amnesty.org.uk/hakamada

Baha'i community links

Janice writes: "I am a fairly new follower of the Baha'i faith, currently living and working near Osaka. Are there are any groups in Japan? I'd like to make contact, find support."

There is a network, but while the website opens in English, all the useful information is in Japanese, at www.bahaijp.org/.

If you don't read nihongo too well, get a Japanese friend to help you find your way around.

You might find the following site fascinating, as it is in English, and gives a history of Baha'i in Japan from 1914 to 1938: bahai-library.com/east-asia/history.japan/

According to one source, the CIA World Factbook reckoned that in 2006 there were about 12,000 Japanese Baha'is. Which makes one wonder: Why would the CIA be even remotely interested in collecting such information?

Angela Jeffs is a freelance writer and writing guide (www.thewriterwithin.net/). Ken Joseph directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com and (0570) 000-911. Send queries, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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