Nick Baker, a British prisoner unfairly convicted in Japan on drug
smuggling charges, will have his appeal hearing on Wednesday 9th June 2005
at 2pm local time, at the Tokyo High Court. It is hoped that this will the
last hearing before the summing up.
In a positive development, the new judge presiding over the case last week
gave Nick’s defence lawyer, Mr Miyake, permission to reconstruct the
suitcase and its contents in order to prove that the key had been in a
pocket in the suitcase all along and that the customs officials had lied.
Customs officials had earlier said that Nick had had the key on his person
and had tossed it into the case. Had this been true, it would have
indicated that the case was his.
Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Liberal Democrat European justice spokesperson
who has campaigned since 2002 on behalf of Nick Baker and flew to Tokyo in
2003 with Sabine Zanker of Fair Trials Abroad in the attempt to get him a
fair trial, said:
“Only now following a change of judge, and after 3 years of injustice, is
the defence being given the chance to expose the original lies of the
"This gives me hope that justice will finally be done, but it is a long
and debilitating haul for Nick and his family."
"Japan has many issues to address in the poor treatment of accused
persons, but let us hope Nick's eventual acquittal will help provoke reform."
Nick Baker was arrested in Tokyo in April 2002 on drug-smuggling charges.
He was convicted after being interrogated for 23 days without a lawyer at
the end of which he signed a document which was not translated and which
he therefore didn't understand. He asserts his innocence, alleging he was
duped by his travel companion into carrying the bag in which drugs were
was found. The prosecution indeed acknowledges the bag was not Nick's.
Nick's trial was marked by an absence of safeguards expected in a
civilised country. Not only was there was no lawyer present for three
weeks of interrogation and no taping of interviews, but also he was held
for 10 months in solitary confinement for protesting his innocence. Most
crucially for the defence, vital evidence was ignored, such as the
activities and record of the travel companion.
In Japan, criminal cases have a 99% conviction rate. The judge who
presided over the court that found Nick Baker guilty has not acquitted a
single defendant in over 10 years. Prison conditions are extremely hard
and are run with an elaborate system of punishments. Since his arrest over
3 years ago, Nick has not been allowed to make a phone call home; he is
forced to sit cross legged on a concrete floor for endless hours and, due
to the lack of heating, he suffers from frostbite to his fingers and feet.
At Nick's first appeal hearing in March 2004, the court translator was
inaudible as she read through the defence argument; the judge instructed
her stop before the end as the session had run out of time. In response to
critical comments about this translator on the Justice for Nick Baker
website, the Tokyo High Court informed Nick's legal team two days before
the second hearing was due that the translator had 'resigned' and as there
was no replacement, the second hearing would be cancelled.
At the appeal hearing in October 2004, the police officer who arrested
Nick was cross-examined by the defence. In response to many specific
questions from the defence, Officer Kawashima, who was in charge of the
customs seizure and who signed the confiscation report replied "I don't
remember" 46 times on the witness stand."
In December's appeal hearing it came to light that Nick is not allowed to
keep his asthma inhaler in his cell, and so has to call for a guard every
time he has an asthma attack, even if he can't breathe.
At that hearing, the translations at the original court hearings were also
discussed, and during the course of this line of questioning that Judge
Tao abruptly stopped proceedings. A Japanese professor of linguistics, who
has taped all of the proceedings, has produced a report stating that the
court's translation of Nick's evidence substantially deviated from what he
said, and put him in a negative light.
At a press conference in January 2005, Nick’s lawyer Mr Miyake said he
believed there was a 50-50 chance that Nick’s original sentence would be
overturned. This would be a significant and long-overdue development in a
criminal justice system that has a 99% conviction rate.
For immediate release, 8June 2005
Contact Sarah Ludford MEP 44 (0) 7711 553587 or Zoe Mayne 0207 288 2526