SAPPORO – The Sapporo District Court decided Thursday to grant a retrial to a Russian man who was sentenced to two years in prison for possessing a handgun in 1997, acknowledging he was convicted because of an “illegal undercover investigation” by local police.
Presiding Judge Koji Saeki granted the retrial to the former sailor, saying, “A collaborator in police investigations initiated a deal to exchange a handgun with a valuable secondhand car,” thereby prompting the Russian man to bring in the gun.
“It was an illegal investigation that induced” the crime, Saeki said. “The state that should be preventing crimes have created a crime involving a handgun, thereby threatening the life and safety of its citizens.”
The Russian man, 46, was arrested for violation of the firearms control law and sentenced by the same court in August 1998. His sentence was finalized after no appeal was made, and he served out the prison term. He now lives in Russia.
The court said the authorities, who are responsible for preventing crimes, ended up causing another crime and hiding the truth about the undercover investigation, preventing the accused from receiving a fair trial.
Saeki said that Hokkaido police collaborated with each other to testify in court to cover up the fact that they were engaged in an undercover investigation.
“It defies the objective of a trial and deprived the (defendant) from receiving a fair trial,” he said. “The evidence obtained from the undercover investigation is inadmissible. The man should be found not guilty.”
A request for retrial was made in September 2013.
When standing at the Russian man’s trial as a witness for the prosecutors, a former inspector denied there was an undercover probe. But when the former inspector himself was later arrested multiple times for alleged use of illegal drugs and other charges and put on trial, he admitted to the undercover investigation.
In his own trial, the former inspector had testified that he had instructed a police collaborator to solicit foreign nationals to bring in handguns to the country.
In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that undercover investigations should be allowed only if the targeted person is suspected of committing a crime if given an opportunity.