Says he was ill treated in prison KATHMANDU, June 16:Losing communication skills appeared to be the glaring consequence of spending 15 years in solitary confinement in Japan for Govinda Prasad Mainali as he struggled for words upon arrival at home on Saturday.
He was nervous fielding questions from the media, including a big Japanese contingent that flew all the way to Kathmandu to get his response for the first time since he was first arrested for overstaying and then charged with murdering a female employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) 39-year-old Yasuko Watanabe in 1997.
He said he was happier than anyone could possibly think of to be able to meet and share happiness and sorrows with family members after such a long time. But his awkwardness and efforts he had to put in to utter every single word showed the excruciating pain of wrongful imprisonment far outweighed the joyous reunion with the family following the Tokyo High Court´s order of a retrial on June 7. "I was treated very badly in the prison. The clothes given to me were of the lowest standard while the humiliating words would hurt my heart," he said about his time in the prison after reading a press statement. "I was not even allowed to correspond with my family."
He reminded that the final verdict on the murder case was yet to be delivered but expressed confidence that he will be exonerated. While thanking the Japanese and Nepali media, human rights activists, Tokyo High Court, his lawyers and others, he reserved special gratitude for Govinda-Innocence Advocacy Group Japan - set up mostly by Japanese citizens who from the beginning stood for him. "I feel the service and help you (the group) provided me and my family can be counted as a selfless humanitarian service of the highest order," he said. "I will relentlessly try to pay you back for your service," he added.
He however, was scathing in his criticism of the Nepali government for its indifference to the plight of a citizen who was languishing in the prison for 15 years in a fabricated case, and was seeking a retrial for justice. "I want to request that no other Nepali citizens should suffer like me due to lack of backing from the government," he added.
General Secretary of the advocacy group Mikiko Kyakuno, who along with fellow members Shunichi Katagawa, Junko Hashumi and Rajan Pradhananga had accompanied Govinda, his wife Radhika and two daughters from Tokyo, revealed how Govinda´s suffering continued till Saturday morning despite being freed from the prison on June 7. "There was always a glass barrier between Govinda and visitors at the prison and even at the facility of immigration bureau where he was sent from the prison. We saw him without the glass barrier for the first time inside the airplane in Tokyo," Kyakuno said.
But he was again ill-treated in Bangkok for his deportee status. "The Thai immigration officials kept him in a separate room which had no bed, just a filthy blanket and the toilet which had no water for flushing. When we asked him this morning what they gave him to eat, he said he had not even drunk water," she added and promised that the group would continue to support him until the final verdict is delivered.
Govinda, who left Nepal for Japan in 1994, worked as a waiter in Tokyo until police arrested him in March 1997 for overstaying and then charged him for murdering Watanabe, who moonlighted as a prostitute and killed on March 8, 1997. The district court had acquitted him but the prosecution, presenting selective evidence, appealed at the Tokyo High Court, which found him guilty and jailed him for life on circumstantial evidence, deeming that a third party could not conceivably have entered the victim´s room.
Govinda landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport at 12:15 in the afternoon where his mother Chandra Kala greeted him with a hug. He then went to his family home at Minbhawan, which was not constructed when he had left for Japan in 1994, where he made his maiden entry amidst Vedic chants from a Hindu priest.
He had told the media gathering at the airport that he has no words to describe his joy and he did struggle to speak throughout the day even while talking with relatives at home, according to his elder brother Indra Prasad. He may soon feel comfortable to communicate with others but the severe psychological and emotional damage 15 years of wrongful imprisonment have inflicted will take some time to heal.