TOKYO, Japan — Whether or not Iwao Hakamada committed the gruesome murders for which he was sentenced to hang is a matter of debate. What is certain is that the 73-year-old — the world’s longest-serving death row prisoner — has come to personify the cruelty inherent in Japan’s treatment of its most heinous criminals.
Hakamada, a former professional boxer, has spent 41 years on death row for a murder that even one of the three judges who sentenced him now believes he did not commit.
The possibility that an innocent man may have spent more than four decades in prison is not the only reason why Hakamada’s case has attracted the attention of human rights groups.
Amnesty International has accused Japan’s penal system of driving condemned men insane after subjecting them to, on average, at least seven years of “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment on death row.
Japan Death Row | Amnesty International