NAGOYA – Five of the six Nagoya Prison guards charged with killing one inmate and injuring another by abusing a restraining device last year pleaded not guilty Tuesday. The sixth partially owned up to the charges.
On the opening day of their trial before the Nagoya District Court, Deputy Chief Guard Akihiko Maeda, 41, guard Hiroki Ozawa, 27, and three others entered the not guilty pleas to charges of physically abusing two inmates by using a leather belt with manacles.
Deputy Chief Guard Hiromasa Okamoto, 47, charged with severely injuring an inmate in September, accepted responsibility for improperly using the restraining device.
“It was not for the purpose of punishment,” Okamoto said. “But the use (of the device) was beyond the scope of occupational limits, and I accept responsibility.”
The lawyers for the other five defendants called the charges illegal and demanded the case be dismissed.
The five who pleaded not guilty claimed they did not conspire in the incidents.
The six have been charged with using the restraining device as punishment, killing an inmate last May, and severely injuring another in September at the prison, which is in the town of Miyoshi, Aichi Prefecture.
They denied ever using the leather belt to punish inmates, calling the incidents “spontaneous accidents,” and four of them, excluding Ozawa, claimed they are sorry if they caused injury with the device during the course of their duties.
The trial will seek to determine the appropriateness of the guards’ actions in restraining the inmates and in the way they used the device.
Maeda, Ozawa and another defendant stand accused of placing a 49-year-old inmate in the restraints last May 27 to punish him for disobedience. The inmate died later in the day due to abdominal injuries and a pulmonary infarction caused by a blood clot obstructing circulation in his lungs.
Five of the defendants, including Maeda, Ozawa and Okamoto, also stand accused of putting a 30-year-old prisoner in the restraints on Sept. 25, also to punish him for disobedience, cinching the device so tightly around his abdomen that the inmate suffered internal bleeding requiring 70 days of medical treatment.
In February, Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama reprimanded 11 Justice Ministry officials. Earlier this month, she came up with a plan to ban the use of the leather restraint at all correctional institutions and immigration facilities. The ban will take effect after a six-month grace period.
In a separate case of fatal abuse at Nagoya Prison, prosecutors last week charged another guard, Mikio Otomaru, 46, with assault resulting in the death of a male inmate in December 2001.
According to that indictment, on Dec. 14, 2001, Otomaru punished a 43-year-old inmate by shooting water from a high-pressure fire hose into his anal cavity. The inmate suffered serious injuries to his rectum and anus and died the next day.
The Justice Ministry later claimed that the inmate had died of self-inflicted wounds.
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