National / Crime & Legal

Wife of Nepalese man who died during interrogation sues state, Tokyo Metropolitan Government

by Sakura Murakami

Staff Writer

The wife of a 39-year-old Nepalese man who died in March last year while being interrogated by prosecutors filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court on Friday, demanding about ¥7 million in damages from the central government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

She has also filed a separate criminal complaint with the police accusing prosecutors of professional negligence.

According to the lawsuit, the Nepalese man, Arjun Bahadur Singh, was arrested in March 2017 for allegedly possessing a credit card that was reported as being lost. After he was taken to a detention center, Singh refused to follow instructions there and threw a futon at an officer, according to police reports.

Because Singh continued to be “disorderly,” officers at the detention center restrained his hands and legs and eventually took him to the prosecutor’s office for questioning, the lawsuit said.

During the session, prosecutors took the cuffs off one of his hands after Singh kicked the table in protest. However, he soon fell unconscious and was rushed to a hospital, where he died a few hours later, the lawsuit said. Doctors were unable to determine the cause of death.

According to the lawsuit, a medical expert for the plaintiff claimed that Singh died from high levels of potassium in his blood, which they presumed was caused by muscle necrosis resulting from his limbs being restrained for a long period of time.

Singh’s wife claims prosecutors could have easily prevented his death by consulting a doctor before releasing him from his handcuffs.

“I want to know how my husband died, whether he was killed and who is responsible for his death,” she told a news conference after filing the lawsuit.

“The police report we received is actually a bit hazy on the details” regarding what exactly happened when Singh was partially released from his restraints, Mario Tachibana, one of the lawyers for the plaintiff, said.

Singh first came to Japan on a skilled worker visa in 2011, initially working as a chef at a Nepalese restaurant in Saitama Prefecture. However, he had lost his job and was sleeping on the streets when he was arrested.

“This issue is of course about the appropriate use of restraints, but it’s also about how foreign workers don’t get the support they need when they lose their job,” added Ryutaro Ogawa, another lawyer for the plaintiff. The rights of foreign workers in Japan are “also part of the background of this incident, so I think there is a lot to learn from this case.”