Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024

Sentence of Youngest Bochur of Japan Trio Commuted by Israel

Yosef Bondo, Yosef ben Ita Rivka, the youngest of the three bochurim arrested in Japan back in 2008 who was transferred last March to Eretz Yisroel, had his sentenced commuted by Israel on December 30 and was released on Sunday. Sunday night, shortly after he was back inhis hometown, Yosef davened Maariv at the Itzkowitz Bais Medrash in Bnei Brak. Yosef, the only juvenile (under 18 years of age) of the three bochurim, was sentenced on April 30, 2009, to five years in jail in Japan, this being the maximum sentence that could be a meted to a minor. His lawyers' request for him to serve the remainder of his sentence in his home country was subsequently granted. He was placed in the Rimonim prison and had been allowed to visit his family several times over the last year.

Taking into account the time that Yosef has already been in the Japanese jail, both prior to and after his sentencing, and calculating a deduction of a portion of the sentence for good behavior, Yosef was expected to be released after Pesach.


Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who had first put forth the request to the Japanese Justice Ministry to allow Yosef’s extradition to Israel last year, recommended that the sentence be commuted.


Therehas been some concern as to whether this revelation regarding the commutation of Yossi’s sentence will in any way negatively affect the two other boys, Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava, who are both in Japanese detention. Rav Mendel Shafran, a rosh yeshiva in Bnei Brak who is a neighbor of Yosef Banda’s family, reportedly said that the commutation should only be pursued if it was clear that the cases of the other boys would proceed independently and would not be affected by the pardon.


The story of the Japan trio began on April 3, 2008, when the three bochurim from Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak – two under age 20 and one under age 18 at the time – were asked to transport some antiques from Amsterdam to Tokyo, Japan. The ‘friend’ who asked them for the favor offered them $1,000 each and assured them that everything was legal.


Once in Amsterdam, they were given the “antiques,” concealed inside false-bottomed suitcases. Told that this was a precaution against theft, they once again suspected nothing and flew on to Tokyo. In Japan, the false bottoms were quickly detected and broken into by customs officials, who found not antiques, but $3.6 million worth of ecstasy pills.


Yaakov Yosef, who was sentenced on March 24 to six years in prison, is appealing his sentence at this time. In the appeal, a hearing was held in the Tokyo High Court on December 13 to officially set forth the court’s protocol for future proceedings. Professor Gershon Ben-Shachar, the world’s leading expert in polygraph research, a sub-study of neuro-sciences and psychology, will personally appear in court to testify on January 26. Ms. Reiko Suzuki, the woman who had administered the polygraph test to all three boys and had argued that the results of such testing are not necessarily accurate, will appear one month later to respond to Professor Ben-Shachar’s presentation. Although the delay of another whole month is regrettable, it is unavoidable due to the fact that the prosecution requested that they be given that amount of time to prepare. Professor Ben-Shachar will then be given the opportunity to refute Ms. Suzuki’s testimony by written submission approximately two weeks later, with a possible rebuttal by Ms. Suzuki and a rebuttal by Professor Ben-Shachar to follow. All opinions and counter-opinions must be concluded by the end of March, with a verdict expected in April.


Although in Japan many judges change positions during the month of April, even if Judge Akira Kanaya were to be replaced at that time, he would still be the one to decide and issue the verdict, since all matters will have been concluded before then. A new judge would only read the verdict that Judge Kanaya submitted.


In the ongoing trial of Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava, a hearing was held on December 22 and the judge was scheduled to issue his final decision regarding the admission of additional evidence and/or testimony. At the hearing, Judge Masanori Hodoko (who had replaced outgoing Judge Hiroshi Furuta) announced that he would not change the essential direction of the previous court and would not allow any further witnesses to testify. However, in light of the fact that Professor Ben-Shachar will be testifying in Yaakov Yosef’s appeal on January 26, Judge Hodoko agreed to wait and see what the outcome will be before deciding the case. It was also agreed that records of Professor Ben-Shachar’s testimony will be submitted to his court. Judge Hodoko actually apologized to Yoel Zev several times about the fact that this delay would further postpone the conclusion of the case, but all hope and pray that this delay will be to Yoel Zev’s benefit.


On December 27, Rabbi Aron Nezri and Rabbi Meilech Bindinger, two of the leading askanim involved in the case, travelled to Eretz Yisroel to personally confer with Professor Ben-Shachar. During a meeting of several hours, they reviewed the entire case, examining the polygraph issue from all possible angles. The meeting was very productive and many important points were raised and studied. After analyzing all the charts and reports, Professor Ben-Shachar once again reiterated that the results achieved by all three boys during their polygraph examinations were incredible and clearly proved that the boys had no knowledge whatsoever of what they were transporting in their suitcases. Additionally, there are many levels and types of polygraph testing, and the technology used in Japan, the CIT (Concealed Information Test), is the most advanced of all, said the professor. Another point in the defense’s favor is the fact that all three boys underwent a “card test,” a preliminary test to confirm that the individual responds normally to psychological/mental stimulus. As all three boys passed this assessment perfectly, the prosecution will not be able to argue that they were not fitting subjects for the polygraph test.


As Yaakov Yosef and Yoel Zev remain in their unheated prison cells in the middle of the Japanese winter, praying for their respective yeshuos, all are asked to keep Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava in their tefillos.



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