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Soldier refusing questioning in Yomitan hit-and-run

Date Posted: 2009-11-19

A 27-year-old soldier being held by military authorities at Torii Station as a suspect in a November 7th hit-and-run incident is refusing to talk to Japanese police about the case because of his concerns about adequate interpreters.

Hirofumi Hirano, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, says the soldier has refused to submit to Japanese Police questioning. The soldier, who remains unidentified until authorities formally press charges, has denied hitting and killing 66-year-old Masakazu Hokama, a Yomitan resident, on a village road. Hirano noted Japanese authorities had followed up on a statement by Colonel James Woodard, the Torii Station Commander, that he would make the soldier available for questioning.

The soldier was asked to speak voluntarily with police, and his attorney, Toshimitsu Takaesu, said that was initially done last week. Takaesu says requests for additional questioning have been refused, because “police wrote something different than what my client actually said, and would not change the paperwork.” Takaesu says he asked the Naha Prosecutors Office to videotape and make audio recordings of all investigative proceedings ”because the Japanese rules are different from the U.S., and it is not fair to ask him questions.”

Takaesu says he has advised his client to “use his right to remain silent” in the case. The defense attorney has also asked police for the right to be present during questioning of his client. Under normal Japanese procedures, attorneys and witnesses are never permitted to be present during police interrogations and investigations.

The defense attorney says his client has already told police “I didn’t hit anyone. I didn’t drive a car on the 7th. I came home early in the morning and woke up late the next day and found out my car had a broken windshield.” The soldier had taken the vehicle to a local repair shop to have the windshield repaired, but says he did not notice blood or hair on the broken-out windshield until police later pointed it out. The soldier, said Takaesu, “was quite upset about the discovery, because he is a medic and would have stopped to administer first aid if he’d known about an injured person.”

The soldier, Takaesu says, told him he’d been at several locations in Okinawa entertainment districts during the night of the accident, but that he had not been drinking.

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