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Chika Honda is one of several Japanese citizens incarcerated in Australian prisons, because some $30 million worth of drugs was found in their suitcases at Melbourne airport, on June 17, 1992.
That date must be etched in their minds for:
a) 3 of them are brothers, so making an inroad like a highway into their family in Japan.
b) Chika, who writes to us, and to whom some of the aboriginal children associated with our work in Adelaide from time to time, have written, appears a notably cheerful and patient person, as does one of the men who also writes. His art work, some of which goes to children, is impressive. All are reported - by a Japanese speaking Minister in my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, who is working in Melbourne and spends much time with them - to have become Christians. Hence there is an immediate test of their faith. Of this, they seem very aware.
c) The matter has spread in a most unusual way. The Herald Sun reports that Shien Kai, a support group which has formed in Australia on their behalf, one involving some 40 people, has members willing to put mortgages on their houses to assist the deliverance of the 5, all of whom protest and have protested innocence.
d) When you think of it, we know that in certain foreign countries for example, we can find ourselves troubled by the approach to just such matters as these. There is a question which is fundamental to justice: IS ONE GUILTY till proved INNOCENT, or deemed INNOCENT till proved guilty ? How safe is one ? Can artful criminals mocking decency and justice alike, plant things in a pocket, or by some device such as these 5 prisoners protest is the case here: a case of lost bags exchanged and replaced, drugs included ? How sophisticated must tourists be in order to avoid any scope for a tour official mishandling their affairs! and current developments, concerning such a possibility here, will be noted later.
Have the prosecutors checked this out this development ? Will they ? Is concern for justice as passionate as concern for conviction ? It is to be hoped these questions can be answered in the affirmative. If people are imprisoned without adequate ground, who is then not sought out, perhaps able ruthlessly to continue operations ?
How easy it is to be associated with something which someone else does, by mere circumstantial evidence, when it may be all part of a productive plot to use unwitting members of a tour group to make money for some operator or agent! How hard, it seems, it is to remove any charge that can then arise, by mere lack of evidence! Yet that is one of the abstract possibilities for this occurrence of the drugs found at the airport: simple innocence and complex entrapment.
It might seem to the uninitiated that something like complete certainty would have to attach to a case where claims of lost luggage replaced have been made, from the first; and if the case is one where no distinctive incrimination is available for the occurrence, beyond suspicion, it would appear axiomatic that no action may be taken, except to FIND compelling data, should it exist.
There are clearly two possibilities for such a case:
i) they lie, they lied from the first, it was their own plot.
ii) they were used by unscrupulous money-makers, who arranged with the sort of money this type of thing can generate, to have their bags stolen, or lost, or misplaced, and then replaced.
In the latter case, it is important to ponder the fact that finger prints were found on the packages, conveniently located in their tourist cases. They were, it is reported, NOT those of the five now in Australian prisons. That fits the case ii). It does not help the case i).
In a retrial, it was pronounced that the sentence of 25 years on one of the party of five would be reduced, we read, to a mere 20 years, since the crime is important. That such a crime as this is important, as indeed is murder, is unquestionably the case.
The real question
however remaining at this time, is simply this: WAS it
a crime on the part of the accused now held in prison ? or was it not ?
Were criminals simply using innocents to make money, by loading them with their contraband materials through the simple device of 'lost bags' replaced, a relatively easy matter for any determined criminal with contacts to address, without doubt!
It is no unusual thing for bags to be lost, and on a tour a measure of hopeful and happy euphoria can prevail, so that one does not make professional searches for possible plants of materials, unseen. One might rather look for what was lost, if anything, as a natural reaction, after being pleased to recover lost baggage.
Was there evidence to PROVE, even to make it OVERWHELMINGLY probable, that they were guilty ? Nothing of this kind has come to our knowledge. It seems that new developments relating to the foreign prison sentence imposed on one agent connected with the tour in question, provide another possible lever in establishing this: that at worst, the case is a toss-up. It is not provable which happened. Further, if this development is confirmed, then the other option concerning the five may have a forcible case.
Indeed, their excellent demeanour in prison, their hundreds of hours reportedly spent with the Presbyterian Minister noted, son of a missionary to Japan, who is convinced of their innocence; their cheerfulness and patience; the immense support they seem to have generated, the whole air and manner of their behaviour, the failure of anything, at any time, from anyone, it seems, to show any way in which guilt can be assumed or reinforced, for the case i) above: these things all attest, to say no more, an immense degree of uncertainty. The evidence seems powerless to do more than to suggest a possibility; and contrary evidence, involving innocence, is strong.
However there is more. The Sydney Herald Sun report includes this from the Minister's report: An immigration official conceded, it indicates, that the facts present a considerable difficulty for the negative and criminal interpretation. It is this: how it happened that they were arrested! One of the group had been connected with crime, but had left it 3 years earlier. When he was questioned at the airport and before any drugs were found, he mentioned that he was with the other 4 of the 5 now in captivity. Why on earth would he say that, if he were acting then as a criminal: for it was the others in whose bags the drugs were placed - not in his. Was he an idiot ? That seems a presumptuous assumption, to say no more. WHATEVER happened after he spoke in that way, the drugs would almost certainly be found - as indeed they were.
Did he WANT prison for his brothers, another man and for Chika Honda ? And for himself ? In terms of probability, that would not seem likely! Did he WANT to direct investigation to the incriminating treasure-trove of drugs by his own words, to the cases of the others, where they in fact were ? That is not a compelling interpretation! It would seem near to certain that, if guilty, he would not so act. Are they guilty because it seems near to certain that they are not ? Such questions are not side-issues, when mere possibility appears to be the case in the first place!
The Immigration Official noted is reported to have spoken in this way: If the ONE tourist questioned had NOT told of the others associated with him, they would NOT have been found with the drugs.
If that tourist (now prisoner) were guilty and illicitly involved in a money deal, WHY RISK THE HAUL OF DRUGS WHEN MERE SILENCE WOULD LET IT DO ITS WORK ? That is the question. Why indeed!
If there is something which shows guilt, it would at least be interesting to hear of it. If however there is nothing more than the report indicates, we must ask: Where is justice if a possibility puts a group into prison for 20 years or so. Where is Australia if a possibility, white-anted by contrary circumstances, makes people captives for years! and here, if it does this to five of them, several years of imprisonment having passed already... precisely where ?
Further action in Law is due shortly, and it is to be hoped that those who would like to be put in prison , if they themselves went abroad, on the evidence which attaches to this case, will be the first to assess them guilty! If however there is nothing more than this, how can THIS country, do THIS to foreign visitors, protecting itself, as it might seem, from drug problems by making others beware - of what ? of any possibility of finding themselves arraigned with drugs that someone may successfully have planted, as can happen in other countries, with dire results. Perhaps precautionary measures will need to proliferate, making tourists more to resemble travelling protectorates.
20 days in prison would be a long, and perhaps a dangerous time. 20 years ? In either case, the principles of justice needing satisfaction remain the same.
But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream - Amos 6:1.
Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate - Amos 5:15.