The Mito District Court's Tsuchiura branch granted a retrial Wednesday for two parolees found guilty of robbery and murder, casting strong doubt on the evidence that led to their convictions.

Shoji Sakurai, 58, and Takao Sugiyama, 59, were sentenced to life in prison for robbing a 62-year-old carpenter and strangling him in Tone, Ibaraki Prefecture, in August 1967. The two, paroled in November 1996, have maintained their innocence, claiming they were forced to confess.

The district court acknowledged that "the only direct evidence linking (the two men) and the crime is their confessions."