Wife presses for details in death of deportee

The Japanese wife of a Ghanaian who died last month while he was being deported for overstaying his visa called Tuesday on police and the Immigration Bureau to disclose exactly how he died.

“I want the government to unveil the truth as soon as possible to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents,” the wife of the deceased man, Abubakar Awudu Suraj, told journalists at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.

The FCCJ agreed not to reveal the wife’s name.

Police said Suraj was confirmed dead in a hospital March 22 after an undisclosed number of immigration officers overpowered him when he became violent in an airplane before it departed Narita International Airport that day for Cairo.

The wife’s lawyer, Koichi Kodama, questioned the police investigation, which has not resulted in any arrests.

“If a man died after five or six civilians, not public servants, held his limbs, they would undoubtedly be arrested,” Kodama said, adding he told “exactly that to the prosecutors” he met with Monday in Chiba.

The Chiba police are questioning about 10 immigration officers and crew of Egypt Air, Kodama quoted a Chiba prosecutor as saying. Police said March 25 the cause of death was unclear after an autopsy. Kodama said a more thorough autopsy is being performed.

Suraj’s wife is considering suing the government, but she and Kodama are holding off pending further evidence of malpractice by immigration officers.

“Lawyers have no authority to collect evidence, and thus we have to wait for police to disclose evidence,” he said.

According to Mayumi Yoshida, the assistant general secretary of Asian People’s Friendship Society, she and Suraj’s wife went to the Justice Ministry, which oversees the Immigration Bureau, on March 25 to ask the ministry for details of how Suraj died.

Yoshida quoted a ministry official as saying immigration officers “seem to have used a towel for (Suraj’s) mouth and a handcuff.”

“That is all we know” about how Suraj died, she said.

Suraj came to Japan on a temporary visa, which expired in 15 days, in May 1988, according to Yoshida. He was arrested on suspicion of staying illegally in September 2006, and received a deportation order in November that year. The same month, his wife registered their marriage.

In February 2008, the Tokyo District Court ruled the deportation order be waived. But in March 2009, the Tokyo High Court repealed the district court’s ruling on grounds the couple was childless and the wife was economically independent, Yoshida said.