Demanding justice for a Nepalese man convicted for a 1997 murder they believe he didn’t commit, about 100 citizens on Sunday inaugurated a support group to help him win vindication through a Supreme Court ruling.

The group, which includes both Japanese and Nepalese residents of Japan, will also offer moral support to Govinda Prasad Mainali, 34, who is accused of killing a 39-year-old woman and stealing 40,000 yen from her in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.

Mainali has been in custody since his arrest in March 1997. In its ruling in December, the Tokyo High Court sentenced him to life in prison. He is appealing that ruling.

Members of the support group said they will wage a “Justice for Govinda” campaign to appeal to the public as well as to offer encouragement while he is in custody.

Mainali testified that he had sex with the victim in the room where she was found dead, but said the last time was more than a week before she was killed. He has denied any involvement in her murder.

In its first ruling last April, the Tokyo District Court acquitted Mainali, saying there was room for counterarguments against every point the prosecutors had presented.

When prosecutors appealed the case, however, the Tokyo High Court allowed the continuation of Mainali’s detention so that he would not be deported.

In a letter to the support group, Mainali said: “Buddha will not forgive such a trial. So neither will my soul nor the soul of my young daughters. It is wrong to charge an innocent man.”

Rajan Pradhanang of the Nepalese Society in Japan said prejudice against people from developing countries was behind the judgment in Mainali’s case. “All people must be equal under the law. I hope the Supreme Court will make a fair judgment.”

Among the speakers during Sunday’s gathering was Yoshiyuki Kono, a company employee who police considered a suspect in the 1994 sarin gas attack in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. Kono said that in his experience, investigative authorities tend to ignore facts that do not match their theories.

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