Nepalese man cleared of ’97 slaying

The Tokyo District Court acquitted a 33-year-old Nepalese man Friday in the March 1997 murder of a female employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Presiding Judge Toshikazu Obuchi said the court saw no evidence that directly linked the murder to the defendant, Govinda Prasad Mainali, a former restaurant employee.

Prosecutors had failed to eliminate reasonable doubt that Mainali strangled a 39-year-old woman, Obuchi said, adding that the court could not deny the possibility that someone else could have been present at the scene of the crime.

Mainali was clearly relieved after hearing through an interpreter that he had been acquitted.

Prosecutors claimed Mainali strangled the victim, who worked as a prostitute on weekends, and robbed her of about 40,000 yen in cash at a vacant apartment in Shibuya on the night of March 8, 1997.

The victim’s body was found on March 19, 1997. Her bag was torn and cash had been taken from her purse.

Investigators found a used condom dumped in the toilet of the apartment. After matching the DNA-type detected from the sperm with that of Mainali, they arrested him for the murder.

But the judge said some of the evidence did not reasonably point to Mainali as the perpetrator.

For example, the sperm found in the condom was more than 20 days old when it was found on March 19, 1997.

The court said this matched Mainali’s testimony that he had paid to have sex with the victim between Feb. 28 and March 2 that year and had dumped the condom in the toilet, leaving open the possibility that the sperm was not that of the killer.

Four loose pubic hairs were found on the victim’s body, one a match with the woman and one with the defendant. But no match was established with the other two, indicating another person may have been involved, the court said.

Although prosecutors said the perpetrator acted calmly after the killing, the claim contradicts the allegation that the defendant left the used condom in the toilet, it said.

“We praise the judge’s decision, as it followed the principle of criminal trials that the accused cannot be punished as long as reasonable doubt remains,” said Keishi Kamiyama, chief attorney of Mainali’s defense team.

After the ruling, Kamiyama said Mainali thanked the defense team and the judge many times in broken Japanese, adding that he wanted to tell the news to his family in Nepal.

Mainali, who has been convicted for overstaying his visa, was immediately handed to immigration officials after the ruling, Kamiyama said.

He is likely to be expelled. from Japan.

Prosecutors, who demanded life in prison for Mainali in December, said they were shocked by the “unexpected decision” and will immediately consider appealing the case.

Mainali, who lived in an apartment next to the one where the murder took place, was first arrested on suspicion of violating the immigration control law and was later indicted in the slaying.

After investigators considered him the prime suspect, they served him with a fresh warrant for murder.

Mainali pleaded not guilty to murder in October 1997.