KATHMANDU: Govinda Prasad Mainali, who was serving a life sentence in a Japanese jail in a high-profile murder case for the past 15 years has been given fresh chance for a retrial on Thursday.
Justice Shoji Ogawa of the Tokyo High Court provided the retrial basing on new DNA testing which suggests that Mainali, who was serving life for murdering 39-year-old Yasuko Watanabe, a female employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) in 1997, may be innocent.
The court suspended the life sentence and granted Mainali release from jail after turning down prosecutors who tried twice to register an appeal against his release.
“I am very happy following the retrial verdict. This is as good as winning the case,” Mainali´s wife Radhika, who had reached Tokyo along with their two daughters in anticipation of a favorable verdict, said over the phone.
Mainali has been sent to an immigration facility in Yokohama following the verdict as he was first arrested in Japan back in 1997 for overstaying his visa.
Immigration Bureau will now either deport him to Nepal or grant him an exit permit to leave Japan.
Legal professionals and Nepali immigrants working for Mainali’s release said that they would start the compensation process after the retrial is completed.
Govinda Mainali, who left Nepal for Japan in 1994, worked as a waiter in Tokyo until police arrested him in March 1997. He was first held on the charge of overstaying and then on the charge of murdering Watanabe, who moonlighted as a prostitute and was killed on March 8, 1997.
Tokyo District Court found him not guilty in April, 2000. But the prosecution, presenting selective evidence, appealed at 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 murder victim´s room.
Tokyo High Court ordered a re-examination of evidence last year following a request for retrial as two crucial pieces of evidence, which were evidently not presented by the prosecution back then, had emerged. DNA tests in July, 2011 showed that a semen sample collected from the woman´s body was not Mainali´s and instead matched a body hair sample found in the room where the woman´s body was found, suggesting the presence of another man at the time of the murder. Then came the revelation later in the year that the blood group of saliva traces found on Watanabe´s breast does not match that of Mainali. The saliva blood type is O, while his is B.