DHULABARI, NEPAL – A Nepalese man who shared a Tokyo flat with compatriot Govinda Prasad Mainali, 45, said Monday he was coerced while in detention in Japan to sign a false statement indicating his roommate had murdered a Tokyo woman in 1997 in order to rob her.
Mainali was last week deported to Nepal after being granted a retrial presumably to exonerate him after he spent 15 years in a Yokohama prison for the March 8, 1997, murder of the 39-year-old woman, an employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co. who engaged in prostitution on the side, because evidence long held by prosecutors that suggested his innocence was newly brought to light.
Nepalese migrant worker Narendra Kumar Khadka, 42, said in a Monday interview in his hometown of Dhulabari in eastern Nepal that Japanese police pressured him into signing the statement to prove Mainali murdered the woman, and the defendant’s counsel never contacted him in an attempt to refute that claim.
Mainali, who was arrested later that month for overstaying his visa, then charged, tried and acquitted in the slaying, only to be sentenced to life by the Tokyo High Court on appeal, spent 15 years behind bars before the same high court granted his retrial based on new evidence that put another man at the scene of the crime after he had been there.
Recent DNA tests indicated the other man at the scene had had sex with the victim — evidence prosecutors didn’t submit in the trial that acquitted Mainali or when the state appealed and won a life sentence against him.
Mainali returned to Nepal for the first time in 18 years Saturday, nine days after he was released by the Tokyo High Court.
Khadka said he and Mainali were among five Nepalese migrant workers who lived in a building in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward adjacent to the vacant apartment where the woman was murdered. Police found her body 11 days after her death.
“Japanese police wanted to establish that Mainali was desperately in need of money at the time of the murder. They made me sign a statement that said Mainali returned to me a few days after the murder a sum of ¥100,000 that he had borrowed from me in February that year,” Khadka told Kyodo News at his residence in Dhulabari, about 300 km southeast of Kathmandu.
“In reality, Mainali had returned the sum to me on March 6, which is two days before the murder,” said Khadka, who went to Japan on a tourist visa in 1995 and was deported to Nepal a few months after the murder for overstaying.
According to Khadka, he was detained for about 20 days at a police station in Tokyo, for about 1½ months at the Tokyo Detention House and for about 20 days by immigration authorities before he was deported.
In detention, Khadka said he was often interrogated for 10 to 12 hours a day.
“They insisted that Mainali had killed the woman for money. I told them Mainali wasn’t so badly in need of money. But they didn’t believe me and kept on saying that Mainali killed the woman to pay me back. They also said Mainali was in need of money as he was sending money to his family in Katmandu to build a house,” Khadka said.
“I consistently told them that Mainali had returned to me the money before the day of the murder,” he said. “But they told me to sign a false statement if I wanted my detention to end soon. After around three months of mental torture, I relented. It was too much for me.”
Khadka said defense lawyers for Mainali never contacted him after he returned to Nepal and he did not speak out for so many years “because I didn’t want any more trouble.”
“Japan is a big country and has big influence in Nepal. So if I anger Japanese authorities, I could get into trouble even if I live in my own country,” Khadka said, noting he was visited “many times” by Japanese investigators after he returned to Nepal.
He showed Kyodo a statement he said he gave to Japanese investigators in 2000 that shows Mainali returned the money to him on March 6, not after the woman’s slaying.