SUPER FREE CONVICTIONS START

College gang-rape trio get up to 32 months

by Yumi Wijers-Hasegawa

Three members of a now-defunct social club made up of students from elite universities received prison terms of up to 32 months Thursday for gang-raping a coed last April, allegedly along with 10 other male accomplices.

The Tokyo District Court sentenced Naoki Wakamatsu, 27, to 30 months in prison. Wakamatsu belonged to the former Waseda University-based club Super Free, whose members stand accused of routinely gang-raping young women who attended the group’s mass parties.

Wakamatsu, who graduated from the Waseda University science and engineering department, was employed at a cable communications company when he was arrested.

In the afternoon, Yuki Sekimoto, 23, was sentenced to 32 months, and his brother, Takahiro, 20, was sentenced to 28 months. At the time of their arrest, Yuki was a part-time worker and Takahiro was a student at Tokyo Denki University.

Judgments against other Super Free members accused of involvement in this and two other gang rapes are expected in the coming months.

In Thursday’s ruling, the court said Wakamatsu and 12 other members of Super Free gang-raped an 18-year-old coed on April 27, 2003, on the landing of a building in Tokyo’s Roppongi district during a party that followed a dance event organized by the group. The rapists allegedly got the woman intoxicated with alcohol beforehand.

The victim was taken later that night to the Toshima Ward residence-office of Super Free head Shinichiro Wada and gang-raped again, according to indictments.

“The deeds of the accused, in which 13 men used a woman as a pure tool for pleasure by repeatedly raping her, completely ignored her human dignity and can only be called an act of heartless cruelty,” presiding judge Shinji Sugiyama said in handing down the sentences.

Super Free was founded in 1982 and eventually had five branches nationwide. Members included students and former students of state-run institutions, including the University of Tokyo and Hokkaido University, and reputable private universities such as Waseda, Keio, Nihon, Gakushuin and Hosei. Members who were students at the time of their arrest were subsequently expelled.

Judge Sugiyama said that when Wada, a Waseda University student, became Super Free leader in 1995, a hierarchy was established that classified members as “first string,” “reserves” or “boys.” Each level was allotted quotas for selling tickets to parties organized by the group.

Wada is believed to have made more than 10 million yen a year from ticket sales. The parties sometimes drew more than 1,000 people.

Judge Sugiyama said it was under this power structure that group members began to routinely gang-rape young women attending their parties. The judge alleged that Wada encouraged members to rape with comments such as “gang rape creates solidarity among members” and “those who do not participate in gang rapes are not members.”

Wada, considered the key figure in the crimes, remains on trial.

Members of the club began to assume they would rape women whenever they organized a party, the judge said, adding that Super Free members even held meetings to discuss rape tactics, including who would serve as lookouts, and carefully allocated roles among members to separate targets from friends.

Members frequently took photos of their victims with the threat to publicize the photos if victims went to police, the judge said.

Although only three criminal cases have been established so far against 14 Super Free members, club members are alleged to have been systematically involved in gang rapes, targeting university coeds who took part in events organized by the group in various parts of Japan.

Since the three crimes came to light, more than 30 women have told police that they were similarly gang-raped by group members, according to media reports.

The Super Free cases, as well as the sharp increase in the number of reported rapes in Japan — from 1,483 in 1996 to 2,472 in 2003 — prompted the Justice Ministry to amend laws to ensure that rapists and other sex offenders are punished more severely.

Currently, the minimum prison term for rape is two years, lower than the five years for robbery. A minimum penalty of four years for gang rape is under consideration. The ministry plans to submit amendment bills to the Diet this fall.