Action urged in deportee death

by Minoru Matsutani

A Japanese woman submitted a criminal complaint Monday demanding that prosecutors in Chiba Prefecture take action against the immigration officers at Narita airport who in March overpowered her Ghanaian husband to get him on a jet, where he subsequently died of unknown causes while handcuffed in his seat.

The woman, who asked not to be named, took the legal action because Chiba police have not arrested or turned over to prosecutors the immigration officers allegedly involved in the death of deportee Abubakar Awudu Suraj, even though three months have passed.

“The Immigration Bureau and police have not explained what really happened,” said Mayumi Yoshida, assistant general secretary of Asian People’s Friendship Society and a supporter of the widow.

“Suraj’s wife, APFS and her lawyers have decided to file a criminal complaint as we are concerned important evidence may be lost, and statements of suspects and other people may be tampered with, considering the investigation process has taken such a long time,” the organization said in a press release.

Koichi Kodama, the wife’s lawyer, has said the immigration officers should face charges of violence and cruelty resulting in death.

The immigration officers carried Suraj, with a towel covering his mouth, aboard an Egypt Air jet on March 22, Yoshida quoted a Chiba police officer as saying.

Suraj, who was handcuffed, was found unconscious in the aircraft and confirmed dead at a hospital, Yoshida quoted the officer as saying.

The Chiba police were unable to pinpoint the cause of death. They showed Yoshida a report dated May 20 that indicated there were no signs of disease or physical damage, either internal or external, APFS said in the press release.

Kodama has said police would have no trouble arresting a civilian who committed similar actions if the restrained person were to subsequently die.

Suraj came to Japan on a 15-day visa in May 1988, according to Yoshida. In 1990, he began living with the woman who later became his wife. He was arrested in September 2006 on suspicion of being in the country illegally and received a deportation order that November. The same month, his wife registered their marriage.

The Tokyo District Court ruled in February 2008 that the deportation order be waived. But in March 2009, the Tokyo High Court repealed the district court ruling on grounds that the couple were childless and the wife was economically independent, Yoshida said.

The widow, Kodama and Yoshida went to the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office to submit the complaint.