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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Peer calls for fair trial in Japan
Sarah Ludford
Sarah Ludford says Nicholas Baker has not had a fair trial
A British man held in Japan on drugs charges has not been given a fair trial, Liberal Democrat peer and MEP Sarah Ludford says.

Baroness Ludford has travelled to Japan with a lawyer from Fair Trials Abroad to highlight the case of Nicholas Baker who is due to be sentenced in a fortnight.

Baker, a 32-year-old architect from Gloucestershire, has been tried for smuggling but denies the charge.

"We believe that a gross miscarriage of justice is in the making," Baroness Ludford told BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday.

"He certainly has not been proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt and he hasn't been treated as an innocent person."

He certainly has not been proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt and he hasn't been treated as an innocent person
Baroness Ludford

Baker was arrested at Tokyo's Narita Airport in April last year.

More than 40,000 ecstasy tablets and almost one kilo of cocaine were found in a suitcase he was carrying.

He claimed the bag belonged to a travelling companion, who had fled the scene.

A verdict is due to be handed down at Chiba District Court on June 12.

The Japanese prosecutor has called for the near-maximum sentence of 15 years, Baroness Ludford said.

'Crucial evidence'

Baroness Ludford said his story could be checked if evidence was called from Belgium where his travelling companion was arrested and is facing trial on similar charges.

"But the judge failed to call the crucial evidence," Baroness Ludford said.

During his time in Japan, Baker had been in solitary confinement for 10 months.

Although Baker does not speak or read Japanese, he was asked to sign a document in Japanese - "which is nothing short of staggering for a system that claims to abide by the rule of law," Baroness Ludford said.

She called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to raise the case with his Japanese counterpart Junichiro Koizumi when they both attend the G8 summit of world leaders in France this weekend.

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