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In reversal, Tokyo High Court rules government not responsible for Ghanaian deportee’s death

by

Staff Writer

In a reversal, the Tokyo High Court determined Monday that the government was not responsible for the 2010 death of a Ghanaian allegedly subjected to excessive force by immigration authorities while being deported.

In overturning a lower court’s ruling, presiding Judge Izumi Takizawa said the level of physical force used by officials to restrain Abubakar Awudu Suraj, who was 45 years old at the time of his death, was “not illegal” and even “necessary.”

“Immigration authorities’ effort to subdue him was necessary to ensure his deportation would go smoothly,” Takizawa said.

“They are not culpable” for his death, the judge concluded.

The ruling overturns an order by the Tokyo District Court in March 2014 that the government pay a combined ¥5 million in compensation to his widow, who is a Japanese citizen, and his mother, who lives in Ghana.

The earlier ruling, which also held immigration officials responsible for Suraj’s death, was believed to be the nation’s first-ever court decision subjecting government officials to damages payments in connection with the death of a non-Japanese they mistreated.

The plaintiffs have yet to decide whether to appeal the latest ruling, their lawyers said.

“The ruling is irrational. I’m deeply disappointed. I’m in shock,” Suraj’s 54-year-old widow, one of the plaintiffs, told reporters after the ruling. She has asked to remain anonymous.

As it adjourned, the court descended into a momentary state of pandemonium as irate supporters of Suraj’s family accused the judge of “being inhumane.”

Suraj died in March 2010 aboard a private jet departing Narita International Airport during his deportation for overstaying his visa.

Prior to takeoff, a group of immigration officials who accompanied him aboard the plane bound his arms and legs, gagged him with a towel and bent him forcibly forward, in what was seen as an attempt to keep him from resisting. He was found dead shortly after being subdued.

Prior to his deportation, he had “stubbornly” resisted an attempt by immigration officials to repatriate him by screaming and clinging to an airport pillar, Takizawa said.

The second time around, he proved similarly recalcitrant, refusing to board the jet and articulating his intention to thwart the deportation, the judge said. Such an attitude, he went on, justified measures by officials to pre-empt any kind of violent outburst.

Also at issue was the cause of death.

In its 2014 ruling, the Tokyo District Court determined that, contrary to claims by authorities, Suraj had suffocated as a result of being forced into a crouching posture.

Citing the results of an autopsy that revealed the man had a minor heart condition called a cystic tumor of the atrioventricular node, immigration officials had originally blamed his death on a heart attack stemming from the tumor. They said Suraj had “happened to” suffer an attack at precisely the moment he was restrained.

Monday’s ruling said that although it is possible authorities’ use of force triggered an erratic heartbeat that led to his death, the tumor is so rare that there is no way officials could have predicted his death.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    Definitely a subversion of Justice. Japan is, as always, using legalities to execute illegalities. This ruling reinforces my belief that the courts are not , and CAN NOT be the final arbiters of Justice.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Lying liars will lie. This type of story, plus some of my own personal experiences with the police in Japan, is why I do not and will not ever trust them to treat foreigners equally and with respect.

  • Jr. Mackeltom

    The man should be immediately deported & illegals don’t deserve chances. However treating them badly while restraining is not positive.

    Only illegals defend illegals. However he deserved to be deported safely and properly.
    Well this is Japan we’re talking about. Xenophobia have both pros & cons.

  • woodynatural

    A dad is always sad. he had it however coming, he behaved like many illegal immigrants in Europe when they get deported, they think force will make the authorities change their mind but it won’t. However, very sad. RIP.

  • WalterFeldman

    Compare this judgment to the case involving a boy who kicked a soccer ball that caused an elderly man on a scooter to crash and die a year later and has to pay 15 million yen compensation. And the case involving a man whose car was involved in a crash with another car that was driving the wrong way on an expressway who has to pay 40 million yen compensation. Completely ludicrous.