Page last updated at 10:48 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 11:48 UK

DNA prompts Japan murder retrial

Prisoners in Fuchu prison, Tokyo, return to their cells - 27 May 2003
Japan's justice system has a 99% conviction rate

A Japanese man who spent 17 years in jail for the murder of a four-year-old girl has now pleaded not guilty in a retrial of his case.

Toshikazu Sugaya, 63, was released earlier this year after fresh DNA tests showed that evidence found at the murder scene did not match his DNA.

He was sentenced to life in jail after saying during a police interrogation that he committed the crime.

He later retracted this statement, saying it was made under duress.

Human rights groups have criticised Japan's system of police interrogations, where suspects can be detained and questioned for up to 23 days without the presence of a lawyer.

The conviction rate in Japan is more than 99%, and a recent report by Amnesty International criticised the system, saying some of these convictions were based on confessions extracted from suspects against their will.

Appearing at the Utsunomiya District Court on Wednesday, Mr Sugaya said he had nothing to do with the 1990 murder.

He then asked the court why he had been made to suffer 17-and-a-half years in jail for a crime he did not commit.

The retrial is expected to last about six months, but prosecutors are expected to ask the court to acquit Mr Sugaya as quickly as possible.

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