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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Swiss woman's drug smuggling acquittal upheld

Staff writer

The Tokyo High Court on Wednesday upheld a 28-year-old Swiss woman's acquittal of attempting to smuggle 2.2 kg of amphetamines from Malaysia in 2006.

Although found not guilty by the Chiba District Court last August, the woman remained in custody at the Tokyo Detention House while prosecutors appealed the ruling.

"Although we are pleased with the verdict, we also question why our client had to be held in custody for an extended period of time," lawyer Masashi Ozawa said, declining, at the defendant's request, to identify her by name.

The high court ruled that the Swiss woman was "not aware" she was transporting illegal stimulants.

"We cannot reject the explanations made by the defendant as being untrue," presiding Judge Takao Nakayama told the court.

"There is reasonable doubt that the smuggling was intentional," he said, adding the court felt "sorry" for the treatment she received.

The woman was taken into custody by immigration officers after the court was dismissed.

According to the court, the woman was arrested after arriving at Narita International Airport from Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 24, 2006. Customs officers found amphetamines in her suitcase, but she said that the luggage was handed to her in Malaysia by a Turkish man and that she was not aware she was carrying narcotics.

The woman had testified in court that she was offered $2,000 and all travel expenses paid to carry the suitcase to Japan, and that she was asked to use the bag to return with jewelry. She stated in court that the luggage did not appear tampered with and that she was unaware of the 2.2 kg of amphetamine packed in the bag's false bottom.

The District Court ruled that the woman's statements were credible. But prosecutors, arguing that the smuggling was planned, had demanded a 13-year prison term and a fine of ¥7.5 million.

In siding with the woman Wednesday, the court pointed to e-mail she had sent to friends about delivering jewelry to Japan and that she had remained calm while going through customs at Narita.

"It is unlikely that an amateur can remain composed during inspections" while knowingly smuggling illegal stimulants, the court said.

According to her lawyers, the woman was taken to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau after the district court trial ended because her visa had expired. But the Tokyo High Public Prosecutor's Office requested she be returned to detention, fearing she would be deported before the appeal trial ended.

Prosecutors released a statement saying they were dissatisfied with the high court ruling but did not reveal whether they plan to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

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The Japan Times

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