Acquitted Nepalese man cannot be held: court

The Tokyo District Court refused a request Wednesday from prosecutors that it detain a Nepalese man acquitted Friday of murdering a woman in Tokyo in March 1997 while they carry out an appeal.

The district court told prosecutors and the lawyers defending Govinda Prasad Mainali, 33, that it cannot approve detaining him any longer, court officials said.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office asked the Tokyo High Court on Tuesday to review the man’s acquittal. It is also expected to ask the high court to review the refusal of the court to detain Mainali further, judicial sources said.

Koichi Ueda, deputy chief prosecutor at the Tokyo prosecutors’ office, called Wednesday’s decision “extremely regrettable.”

The Tokyo District Court found Mainali, a former restaurant worker, not guilty of murdering a 39-year-old employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co., in a vacant apartment in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward on March 8, 1997.

After the ruling Friday, he was released from custody but was immediately detained by immigration officers. because he has been convicted of overstaying his visa.

The officers are in the process of deporting him. The prosecutors’ office asked the district court to keep Mainali in Japan for fear his deportation would make it difficult to hold a new trial at the high court.

The move was strongly opposed by Mainali’s lawyers, who said he has been found innocent and that a trial based on the prosecution’s appeal can be held without him.

Prosecutors had demanded life imprisonment for Mainali, who came to Japan on a tourist visa on Feb. 28, 1994.

The Metropolitan Police Department alleged that Mainali robbed and strangled Watanabe, an acquaintance of his, after gaining entry to the apartment with a key borrowed from a janitor.

The case made headlines in the Japanese media because Watanabe, a graduate of the private Keio University, allegedly led a double life as a prostitute.

According to the court, Mainali last met the victim and had sex with her sometime between Feb. 25 and March 2, paying her 4,500 yen.

He was arrested in late March 1997 on suspicion of violating immigration laws by overstaying his visa. He was found guilty of this charge by a court and given a suspended prison sentence.

Soon after that, he was served a fresh arrest warrant on suspicion of killing Watanabe and stealing about 40,000 yen in cash on the night of March 8 that year. Watanabe’s body was found March 19 in the empty apartment.

Mainali worked in a restaurant in the city of Chiba, and used to frequently visit the room where Watanabe was murdered, police said.

At the time of the murder, Mainali was living in a neighboring building in Shibuya, the police said.