Woman contests evidence seizure

Kyodo

The counsel for a Canadian woman charged with smuggling stimulants into Japan entered a plea of not guilty Thursday, arguing she had misunderstood the meaning of an English word used by interrogators and allowed them to illegally seize the drug from her.

Elaine Chan, 36, is charged with bringing stimulants into the country when she arrived at Kansai International Airport on Oct. 6 together with another Canadian woman. Small packages of the stimulant were found inside her body.

At Osaka Customs, she signed a document with the word detention under the understanding that she could not refuse a physical examination as she was already in custody.

Suspecting she was carrying stimulants, authorities sought her approval to temporarily hold onto her belongings, according to her lawyers. The authorities used the word detention for retention of voluntarily submitted objects.

Given these circumstances, the lawyers said in their opening statement at the Osaka District Court that the stimulants were illegally collected as evidence.

Prosecutors said there was no way Chen could have misinterpreted the meaning from the overall context and the situation, and that the procedure was “appropriate.”

At least six of the nine customs offices use the word detention for retention of voluntarily submitted objects, rather than for placing someone in custody.

A handbook for legal interpretation supervised by the Supreme Court translates the English word detention as physical detention and retention as a word to seize objects on a voluntary basis.