The police have apologized to four people for mistakenly arresting them over threats posted on the Internet. The police admitted their error after it became evident that the threats had been made by a still unknown person who hacked their computers — but not before the police had extracted confessions from two of the four suspects. The police must humbly reflect upon their conduct, thoroughly examine their mistakes and make public their findings and what corrective measures will be taken to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

The prosecution is also to blame for this travesty of justice. After two of the suspects confessed, the prosecution indicted one and sent the case of the other, a 19-year-old student, to a family court, which placed him on probation. Obviously the public prosecutors did not carry out careful investigation and simply believed the reports sent to them by the police. Both the police and prosecution should realize that they have committed grave errors and compromised their credibility as law-enforcement organizations.

The Kanagawa prefectural police arrested the student on July 1 after a statement threatening a primary school appeared on Yokohama City’s website on June 29. The Osaka prefectural police arrested a 43-year-old man from Suita, Osaka Prefecture, on Aug. 26 after a statement threatening mass murder appeared on Osaka City’s website on July 29. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department arrested a 28-year-old man in Fukuoka on Sept. 1 after e-mail threatening to attack students was sent to a Tokyo kindergarten on Aug. 27. The Mie prefectural police arrested a 28-year-old man from Tsu on Sept. 14 after a statement threatening to bomb Ise Shrine appeared on an Internet message board on Sept. 10.

On Oct. 9 and 10, e-mail was sent to Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc. and to a Tokyo lawyer announcing that the sender was the true perpetrator and disclosing details that only the real culprit could have known. The person said that he wanted to fool the police and planned to rescue those who were arrested at some point in time.

Clearly police investigators paid attention only to IP addresses but completely ignored the fact that while IP addresses identify devices, they do not, of course, identify users. They also failed to check for evidence of malware — in this case a remote access trojan (RAT) virus was used to infiltrate the computers — or investigate the alibis of the arrested people and other uncertain points of the crimes.

Most ominous is the fact that two of the arrested — the student and the Fukuoka man — falsely confessed to the crimes during police interrogations. This strongly suggests that investigators applied intense psychological pressure and used leading questions during interrogation sessions. Displaying a reprehensibly lackadaisical attitude, the prosecution made a record of confession that contained the same content as the statement that the student gave to the police while being interrogated. Both cases clearly demonstrate the need for police and public prosecutors to electronically record interrogations in their entirety.

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