KATHMANDU – The elder brother of a Nepalese man granted a retrial in Japan after serving 15 years in prison for the 1997 murder of a Japanese woman expects his sibling’s rehabilitation to be a challenge.
Indra Mainali, 54, who is waiting for Govinda Prasad Mainali’s return to Nepal, said while the Tokyo High Court’s decision on Thursday to grant a retrial has ended a chapter in Govinda’s suffering, another chapter of less tangible suffering is about to begin.
Govinda’s daughters felt during conversations with their father last week that 15 years of imprisonment have inflicted heavy psychological and emotional damage on their father, Indra said.
Mithila, 20, and Alisha, 18, met their father twice last week, the first time in prison and the second time at the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau’s Yokohama office, where he is currently in custody awaiting deportation. Including these meetings, the daughters have met their father only three times over the past 15 years.
After his long imprisonment, Govinda, 45, seemed very worried about how he will adjust to his family and social life, said Indra, who took over responsibility of Govinda’s family after his arrest and conviction in Japan.
Indra said his brother had not expected that he would leave prison the day he was granted a retrial.
According to Indra, prison security personnel suddenly told Mainali late afternoon on Thursday to pack his things and get ready.
They did not allow him time to say goodbye to other inmates.
They did not tell him that he was being released. Later, a police officer arrived at the prison and drove him to the immigration office.
“We expect in him a number of psychological (problems) and problems related to his rehabilitation in family and society…We will just try our best to bring him back to normalcy,” Indra said.
Indra, who became the head of the Mainali family after his father’s death five years ago, expressed concern about whether he will be able to “rehabilitate Govinda successfully and create a harmonious relationship between members of the family.”
Physically, Govinda is healthy. He has not developed any major disease, though he has aged unnaturally and has lost hair and some teeth, Indra said.
“When I saw him last September, he smiled at times, and I noticed he had lost some teeth, while some others were out of place and shape. For a moment, I thought he would probably not live long enough to serve his life sentence as he had aged rapidly inside prison,” Indra said.
A tourism professional who supplements his income by conducting German language classes in Kathmandu, Indra plans to take time off from work after Govinda returns to Nepal so that he can spend time with him. He said he plans to take Govinda to psychological counseling if necessary.
“We are now also gathering information from other people having such experience so that we can prepare ourselves and inform ourselves about how to deal with a situation we never faced before,” he said.
Of all things, Indra is happy that his younger brother was not been sentence to death.
“Had they done that, an innocent man would have been killed. His innocence would never have been established, and for generations our family would have been made to live with the stigma of being the family of a murderer,” he said.
The disappearance of that stigma last week has been particularly relieving to the relatively well-to-do Mainali family.
The Mainali siblings’ late father was in local politics in Ilam district in eastern Nepal. Both Indra and Govinda own land in their home district and a house each in Kathmandu.
Govinda’s arrest and conviction for the murder and robbery brought so much shame on the family that Indra skipped many social events.
“It was very unfortunate for a family like ours to bear an accusation that our family member killed someone to steal as little as US$350. We are not that poor,” he said.
Govinda’s mother Chandrakala, 79, is impatient to meet her son, whom she has seen only once in the past 15 years.
“I miss his voice the most,” she said.
“My husband died from a heart attack thinking about our son,” she added. “He couldn’t live to see this day.”