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Soldier stymies investigation into Yomitan hit-and-run death

Date Posted: 2009-11-25

A soldier continues to refuse to submit to questioning by Japanese authorities in the November 7th death of an elderly man along a Yomitan road, but his attorney is now saying police evidence may have gotten inside his client’s vehicle when the window or door was opened.

The soldier, who remains unidentified until authorities formally press charges, has denied hitting and killing 66-year-old Masakazu Hokama. His attorney, Toshimitsu Takaesu, now says his client did stop his car and get out to look and see what he struck on the roadway, “but there was nobody”.

The 27-year-old soldier was tracked down by police a day after he took the damaged car with its broken windshield to a local auto repair shop in Yomitan Village. He talked voluntarily with police once, but then refused further sessions because of concerns about accuracy of interrogation documentation. His attorney has asked that he be allowed to be present during questioning, something not normally done by Japanese police and prosecutors, and also that the interrogations be audio and videotaped so they may be checked for accuracy in translations.

The soldier, says Takaesu, has told him “maybe the hair and blood came inside my car when I opened the window.” The attorney says there’s been no further request from Japanese authorities to American military authorities for interviews, “so how can we respond to the police investigation without any criminal report. The answer is ‘we don’t have to respond’”.

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