The Tokyo High Court on Friday rejected an appeal by Shizuoka prosecutors seeking to overturn a district court’s decision to release Iwao Hakamada, who until Thursday had been the world’s longest-serving death row prisoner.
The Shizuoka District Court had also decided to suspend Hakamada’s death penalty and reopen the 1966 murder case.
Hakamada, 78, who was released from the Tokyo Detention House on Thursday after spending more than 30 years on death row after he was convicted of killing a family of four, was hospitalized Friday in Tokyo after a health check indicated he might have diabetes, according to his lawyers.
On Thursday, the lawyers issued a statement asking prosecutors not to file an appeal and asked the Tokyo High Court to reject any that are filed.
Hakamada was convicted of murdering the family of four in Shimizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, now part of the city of Shizuoka, in June 1966.
He was sentenced to death in 1968 and the sentence was finalized by the Supreme Court in 1980.
“It was a strange feeling to see my brother sleeping next to me,” Hideko Hakamada, Iwao Hakamada’s 81-year-old sister, said Friday morning after assisting her brother overnight at a hotel in Tokyo. “I felt as if I was dreaming.”
Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, asked at a news conference Friday about the Shizuoka court’s decision, declined to comment.
He also refrained from answering questions on the capital punishment system and disclosure of evidence by prosecutors in criminal cases.
“I believe there is a diversity of opinion regarding this issue,” was Tanigaki’s only comment.
The minister, who was also asked to comment on Hakamada’s release after 48 years behind bars, said, “I am sure (he) will face a sudden change in his environment, but I hope he copes with it.”