It’s certainly not a record to be proud of, but the Guinness World Records has certified 77-year-old Japanese prisoner Iwao Hakamada as being the world’s longest-serving death row inmate. Incarcerated at the Tokyo Detention House, Hakamada was officially recognized by the world-famous records-keeping organization on March 10, 2011, on his 75th birthday and his 42nd year in death row. To date, he is still behind bars and serving his 44th year.
Hakamada, a former boxer, is currently seeking a retrial over the incident that put him in prison in the first place, the murder of a family of four in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1966. His lawyers had filed the retrial request in 2008, as recent tests showed that the DNA on the clothes presented by the prosecution as evidence did not match Hakamada’s. “We want the public to know that the world is concerned about the circumstances of death row inmate Hakamada,” his attorneys commented on the Guinness World Records citation. The Supreme Court records show that he pleaded innocent to the case, but he was put under intense pressure to confess to the crime. Hakamada has a confession on record but he later retracted it, saying that he was coerced into giving the statement. The Supreme Court gave him the death sentence in 1968.
The Guinness World Records website describes the situation that Hakamada is currently in – he has been kept in solitary confinement for many years now, prohibited from talking with the prison guards. He has not had any visitors for a long time, and it is suspected that he is suffering from dementia because he has refused to meet neither his sister Hideko nor anyone else since 2010. Global human rights group Amnesty International has become aware of Hakamada’s situation and is currently campaigning for the Japanese government to commute his sentence. British actor Jeremy Irons has been working with the international group to make people aware of the prisoner’s situation.