High court reverses not-guilty verdict over drug usage


June 7. 2010

TOKYO


The Tokyo High Court on Monday reversed a not-guilty ruling handed down by a lower court, giving a 49-year-old man a prison term for taking illegal stimulant drugs after the court denied the defendant had been deprived of the right to appoint a lawyer.

Naotake Hirui was found not guilty last October at the Tokyo District Court, which acknowledged that the defendant’s right to seek a lawyer had been violated and said that confiscated stimulant drugs were inadmissible as evidence.

Prosecutors had appealed the lower court ruling, in which the focus of contention centered on whether a police officer had prevented the defendant from contacting his lawyer after he had been questioned by the police.

In the high court ruling, Hirui was sentenced to two years and 10 months in prison.

Hirui’s statements in the lower court ‘‘wavered significantly on the key issue of whether the defendant recognized specific obstructive behavior (by the police),’’ Presiding Judge Akira Kanaya said in handing down the ruling.

‘‘It cannot be acknowledged that the behavior was illegal and that the officer exerted physical force. There is no reason to deny the admissibility of the evidence,’’ the judge said.

Hirui was arrested and indicted for possessing and using illegal stimulant drugs in Tokyo in November 2008.