Nepal man cleared after 15 years in Japan jail

Updated 07 November 2012
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Nepal man cleared after 15 years in Japan jail

TOKYO: A Nepalese man who spent 15 years in a Japanese jail for a murder he did not commit was formally acquitted on Wednesday after a retrial.
Govinda Prasad Mainali, 46, was declared not guilty by the Tokyo High Court, at a short hearing held despite his having been deported to Nepal weeks ago after his conviction was quashed earlier this year.
The same court had in 2000 found him guilty of killing a 39-year-old woman and sentenced him to life in prison, overturning a lower court’s not-guilty verdict.
The Supreme Court upheld Mainali’s life sentence in 2003.
The case attracted lurid headlines, particularly in the tabloid press, which said the victim was leading a double life as an elite businesswoman by day and a prostitute by night.
Mainali was released from jail in June and sent back to Nepal by immigration authorities because he had — during his time in prison — overstayed his visa.
But the court still went through with the retrial, which was opened at the start of last week with the prosecution saying it now believed he was innocent.
After going into recess to consider the verdict, presiding judge Shoji Ogawa on Wednesday delivered his findings.
“There is a reasonable doubt about the conclusion that (Mainali) was the guilty party. There was no erroneous recognition of facts in the original ruling that issued a not-guilty verdict,” he said.
Police in 1997 arrested Mainali, who knew the victim and lived near the Tokyo apartment where her strangled body was found.
Mainali, who had always maintained his innocence, officially asked Japan’s slow-moving justice system for a retrial in 2005. The retrial was granted only this year.
Fresh DNA evidence, also tested only this year, proved the original probe had overlooked the significant fact that semen found inside the woman was not Mainali’s.
DNA samples collected from the nails of the victim as well as body hair found in the room were a match with the semen, further supporting Mainali’s claim that he was not the killer, local media said.
The case has led to greater media scrutiny of Japan’s justice system and particularly the role of prosecutors, who take a leading role in criminal investigations.
Japan has a very high rate of conviction and relies heavily on confessions. Suspects can be held for many weeks while police make their case and critics say this leads to abuses where those arrested are ground down until they give investigators what they want.
No one else has been arrested in connection with the murder.
Mainali was due to speak to media in Nepal later in the day.


US defense chief Mattis to visit China amid Korea talks

Updated 32 min 51 sec ago
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US defense chief Mattis to visit China amid Korea talks

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE: US Secretary of Defense James Mattis will make his first visit to China this week amid rising tensions between the two countries but also a deep need for Beijing’s support in nuclear talks with North Korea.
Mattis told reporters Sunday he wants to “take measure” of China’s strategic ambitions after it positioned weaponry on disputed islets in the South China Sea and is seeking to project its military power deep into the Pacific.
But in a four-day trip that will also include South Korea and Japan, the Pentagon chief also hopes to confirm China’s commitment to pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, after historic talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
The United States, China, Japan and South Korea “have a common goal: the complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.
In Beijing From Tuesday to Thursday, Mattis will meet with senior Chinese defense officials.
Then he will travel to Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo, followed by a stop Friday in Japan to see defense chief Itsunori Onodera.
Those meetings are aimed at reassuring both allies that Washington’s regional defense commitment remains unchanged after Trump unexpectedly announced on June 12 that the US would suspend a major joint military exercise in South Korea following his meeting with Kim.
The visit to China comes amid bilateral strains that cross multiple sectors. The Trump administration is challenging China on trade, theft of industrial secrets, and cyberthreats.
In the defense sector, China’s decision to position military hardware in built-up atolls in the South China Sea has sparked new security concerns throughout Southeast Asia.
Signaling Washington’s displeasure, in May the Pentagon disinvited China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise, in which some two dozen navies train together for mostly civilian missions.
Weeks later at the Shangri-la Dialogue security conference in Singapore, Mattis slammed China for showing contempt of other nations’ interests in the South China Sea.
“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” Mattis said.
The Chinese, who say the weaponry is only defensive in nature, retorted that Mattis had made “irresponsible comments” that “cannot be accepted.”
Mattis has visited Asia seven times in his 17 months since becoming defense secretary, but not China. He has yet to meet the new Chinese defense minister, Wei Fenghe.
He said the talks in Beijing seek to scope out China’s long-term strategic intentions and determine possible areas of military-to-military cooperation.
He declined to characterize the relationship, saying that could “poison the well” before he meets his counterparts.
“I’m going there to get what I consider to be straight from them what they see for a strategic relationship,” he said. “I’m going there to have a conversation.”
But speaking separately a senior Pentagon official called the United States and China “strategic competitors” and suggested that Washington needs to keep up the pressure over the South China Sea buildup.
The Rimpac disinvite could be “just a first step,” the official said.
Chinese defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Mattis was visiting Beijing at Wei’s invitation.
“It is in the common interests of both China and the United States to develop a healthy and stable bilateral military relationship,” Ren said in a statement.
Beijing “hopes that the United States and China will walk toward each other and work together to make the bilateral military relationship an important stabilizing factor in the relationship between the two countries.”
Mattis will also be adding his voice to North Korea talks, urging China to hold firm on commercial pressure on Pyongyang.
He said he has had daily discussions on the talks with the lead US negotiator, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The senior US defense official said they are hoping to see a concrete outcome, including a timeline for commitments by Pyongyang, “soon.”
Mattis tied the suspension of exercises to the getting concrete results.
“We’ll see if they continuing negotiations keep them that way.”
Mattis meanwhile confirmed that US officials are awaiting the imminent release by Pyongyang of the remains of US servicemen who died in the Korean war in the early 1950s.
Preparations to receive the remains have been made, he said, and “We’re optimistic that it will begin.”