TOKYO (AFP) ― A man believed to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate was Thursday granted a retrial in Japan over multiple murders in 1966, after doubts emerged about his guilt.
Shizuoka District Court decided to “start the retrial over the case” of Iwao Hakamada, 78, who was convicted for the grisly murder of his boss and the man’s family, a court official said.
“The court suspends death sentence and confinement of the person who had been ruled guilty,” the official said.
He is the sixth person since the end of World War II to receive a retrial after having a death sentence confirmed, and his case will bolster opponents of capital punishment.
Back in 1966, Hakamada initially denied accusations that he robbed and killed his boss, the man’s wife and two children before setting their house ablaze.
But he later confessed following what he claimed was a brutal police interrogation that included beatings.
He retracted his confession but to no avail. The supreme court confirmed his death sentence in 1980.
Hakamada’s sister Hideko, 81, who has passionately campaigned for a retrial for decades, thanked dozens of supporters who gathered in front of the court house.
“Everyone, really, really thank you,” she said through a loud speaker in front of hordes of journalists and supporters.
“This happened thanks to all of you who helped us. I am just so happy.”