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Japan releases world’s longest-serving death row inmate

Tokyo, Mar 29 (): A man believed to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate was freed by a Japanese court on Thursday.

Iwao Hakamada, a former boxer was thrown into jail in his 30s for killing a family of four. The incident shocked Japan in 1960s. But, on Thursday, the Shizuoka District Court put off his death sentence and ordered a retrial for 78-year-old Iwao.

Iwao had been convicted in 1966 and was given death sentence in 1968. In his life in the jail for 48 years, he had been experiencing the death row for more than 45 years. This extended period of detention in jail had made Hakamada the longest-serving death row inmate, Guinness World Records say.

Hakamada came out of the Tokyo Detention Center, accompanied by his sister. Dozens of his supporters and journalists were waiting outside the centre. Hakamada simply gazed at the crowd and without speaking to anyone he got into a car.

The Supreme Court took 27 years to reject his first appeal for a retrial. Then, in 2008, he filed a second appeal, and finally the court ruled in favour of him on Thursday.

Hiroaki Murayama, the presiding Judge said in a statement that it was unbearably unfair to prolong imprisonment of the suspect any further as the possibility of innocence has become evident to a good degree.

In 1968, Hakamada was imprisoned for putting a company manager and his family to death and setting fire to their central Japan home, where he was a live-in employee.

On Thursday, the court said that DNA analysis acquired by the lawyers of Hakamada suggested that detectives had found the evidence. Blood tints detected on 5 cloth pieces, which detectives said were worn by the criminal while committing the crime, did not match with Hakamada’s DNA, and the trousers that prosecutors produced as evidence also were too small for Hakamada and did not fit when he put them on.

Sister of Hakamada, 81-year-old Hideko, who sacrificed more than half of her life for her brother’s legal battle, said she was happy he is finally free.