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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 11:24 GMT
Japan 'water hose' jailors freed
Prison guards checks cells in the Fuchu prison in Tokyo 27 May 2003.
Japan revamped its prison law in May in response to complaints
Two Japanese prison guards have walked free from court despite being found guilty of killing an inmate by spraying him with a high-pressure hose in 2001.

Mikio Otomaru was given a three-year prison sentence, suspended for four years, and Masahiro Takami a 14-month jail term, suspended for three years.

The judge backed the defence argument that the two men were trying to clean the victim and did not intend to kill.

Human rights groups regularly criticise the treatment of prisoners in Japan.

Nagoya District Court Judge Hideki Shibata said Otomaru and Takami, guards at Nagoya Prison, had tried to clean the 43-year-old victim, but that "it was done in an inadequate way that amounts to assault".

"It can be highly presumed that the inmate died as a result of the water discharge."

The men sprayed the inmate's bare buttocks which inflicted severe damage to his anus and rectum and he died the following morning of a bacterial infection.

"We can imagine the mortification of the inmate who died in humiliation," Mr Shibata said.

Appeal planned

Human rights activists criticised the ruling.

"From what we've heard from former prisoners, they were subjected to various kinds of abuse in the prison," said Makoto Teranaka, with Amnesty International Japan.

"That the judge did not recognise this as a form of punishment in his ruling was extremely regrettable."

Nagoya Prison has been at the centre of a series of abuse allegations.

Five other prison guards are currently on trial over the death and injury of two inmates who were restrained with leather handcuffs.

And a British man who was released from four years in the jail two years ago claimed he was beaten and feared for his life.

In May, after widespread criticism over the hosing death, Japan revamped its prison law for the first time since 1908, in order to clarify the rights of prisoners and to require guards to be trained in human rights.




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