• Compiled from Kyodo, staff reports

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CHIBA — Chiba Prefecture was ordered Monday to pay some 2 million yen to a Philippine woman who was illegally detained for questioning by prefectural police prior to being convicted of a 1997 murder.

In 1999, the Chiba District Court found Manalili Villanueva Rosal, 30, guilty of killing the man she lived with on Nov. 9, 1997, at their condominium in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture.

The Tokyo High Court upheld the ruling last year and Rosal is currently serving an eight-year prison term. But she filed a damages suit against the prefectural government for illegal confinement and questioning by police.

Rosal was detained and interrogated at a hotel and a police dormitory for 10 days before police had obtained an arrest warrant, the Chiba District Court said Monday in ordering the prefectural government to pay the damages.

Although she allegedly owned up to the murder during the illegal questioning, she retracted the confession before her indictment and has since pleaded innocent.

Presiding Judge Takeo Koiso said that the interrogation “far exceeded the scope of of voluntary questioning sessions” and was thus “illegal.”

While defense lawyers claimed that Rosal’s confession was illegally obtained and thus invalid, the Chiba District Court in 2000 admitted her confession as evidence and sentenced her to eight years in prison for the murder.

Rosal appealed to the Tokyo High Court, which last September struck her confession from the evidence. However, the high court still upheld the sentence, ruling that the conviction was supported by other evidence.

Following the high court ruling, Rosal filed a civil suit against the prefectural government seeking 20 million yen in compensation for the illegal questioning.

Lawyer Satoru Shinomiya, who represents Rosal, said that the case is not an isolated one and has shed light on a fundamental problem in the current system that allows closed-door police interrogations of suspects.

“Under the current system, any citizen, especially a foreigner, can be made (a criminal) through means that are hard to believe are still practiced in the 21st century,” he said.

Soon after the high court ruling, Rosal appealed to the Supreme Court, but dropped the appeal on Apr. 28 over her exasperation with Japan’s judicial system, according to Shinomiya.

“I trusted judicial and investigative authorities to realize justice, but I have been betrayed three times,” Rosal was quoted as telling Shinomiya. “First came the police interrogation, followed by the two court rulings, and now I can no longer trust Japanese justice.”

Still, Rosal was grateful to her Japanese supporters and reportedly said she would like to claim her innocence before the Japanese public after serving her prison term, Shinomiya said.

However, even after her release from prison, she is likely to be deported.

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