NAGOYA – Prosecutors arrested five Nagoya Prison officials Friday in connection with the alleged mistreatment of a prisoner in September that led to his hospitalization.
Prosecutors also suspect other abuse in the penitentiary caused another inmate’s death.
The five arrested were identified as Chief Warden Takashi Watanabe, 34, deputy chief wardens Akihiko Maeda, 40, and Hiromasa Okamoto, 46, and wardens Hiroki Ozawa, 27, and Hajime Ikeda, 30.
The five are suspected of attacking the 30-year-old male inmate on Sept. 25 when they placed him in solitary confinement because of unruly behavior, investigative sources said.
Some of the five have admitted they used excessive force to subdue the inmate, who is serving two years and four months for racketeering, the sources said.
The prosecutors searched a number of locations in connection with the case, including the prison, in the town of Miyoshi, Aichi Prefecture, and the homes of the five suspects.
The inmate became agitated while being questioned by the guards at around 8 a.m. on Sept. 25, prompting them to use a restraining device on him that is made of a leather belt and manacles, purposely cinching the belt tightly around his abdomen, the sources said.
The prisoner was injured and suffered internal bleeding, which required three weeks of recovery in a hospital, the sources said.
The inmate in April had asked the Nagoya Bar Association for help in protecting him from “inappropriate” punishment at the prison.
The bar association planned to interview the inmate and conduct a probe into his allegations, but the meeting was canceled after the prison notified the group that the man had been hospitalized.
The guards are suspected of pressuring the inmate to withdraw his request to the bar association while they were questioning him on the day of the incident, the sources said, noting this may have led to his anger and subsequently being put under restraint.
In Tokyo, Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama said the incident was unprecedented and deplorable and pledged to work closely with investigative authorities to ensure such misconduct does not occur again.
The prosecutors also suspect abuse led to the death of a 49-year-old prisoner in solitary confinement in May. The inmate also had been placed in the same type of restraining device, the sources said.
The devices are used on prisoners who attempt to escape, or turn violent or suicidal, as a way to control and protect themselves and others.
Prisoners wearing the devices are generally placed in a solitary cell with only a basin and toilet and monitored around the clock. They must eat the food off their plates without the use of their hands.
In 1998, the United Nations Human Rights Commission expressed concern over the frequent use of the equipment because it may constitute cruel and inhumane treatment.
Nagoya Prison did not reveal these cases until it held a news conference Monday and defended its methods of controlling inmates.
Another inmate died last year in solitary confinement at Nagoya Prison, according to a Justice Ministry document obtained by Social Democratic Party Secretary General Mizuho Fukushima.
The document indicated the prison has used the restraining devices on inmates placed in solitary confinement on 148 occasions this year, whereas Osaka Prison did so on 28 occasions and Fuchu prison in suburban Tokyo only seven times.
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