Nick Baker's High Court appeal has been lost!
Update 28 October 2005

After three long years of campaigning, Nick Baker has lost his appeal to be set free. The 32 year old British chef, and father of a one year old son, traveled to Japan in 2002 in advance of the World Cup. He was arrested at Tokyo's Narita Airport when ecstasy pills and cocaine were found in the false bottom of a suitcase. Nick protested he had been duped by a traveling companion, James Prunier, but Japanese police allowed Prunier to leave the country without questioning him.

For those FPSS members who have been following this case from its beginning, the evidence is clearly overwhelming that an innocent man has been detained in one of the harshest prisons in Japan and now condemned without a fair trial.

On 27 October 2005, FPSS New Zealand member and close friend of the family, Kathryn Talmage informed FPSS that the Judge had pronounced the verdict - GUILTY. The District Court sentence was quashed and Nick was sentenced 11 years hard labour with a three million Yen fine. The judge later agreed that three years [time served] would be taken into consideration which means that Nick will have to serve a further eight years.

It is an absolute travesty of justice and FPSS are greatly concerned about how Nick and his mother Iris will handle this news.

Kathryn Talmage shared her concerns with FPSS in a statement released today;

Todays guilty verdict in the Tokyo High Court was a travesty of justice. We have all been left reeling with shock, disappointment and anger at the verdict. Japan's justice system has failed dismally today. This was not an appeal it was a farce. From the time Nick was arrested he has been treated with utmost brutality and lack of respect by the authorities From the outset of Nick's trial and then appeal process, vital evidence was disregarded. Nick's travelling companion Mr Prunier who duped Nick into carrying the suitcase through customs was known to the US Federal Police and wanted by Interpol. Despite Nick's statement to police, Prunier was allowed to stay in Japan for 3 days with no police investigation. Prunier was later arrested in Belgium for committing the same act again with another couple, the Belgium authorities released the innocent couple later.

The prosecution [Japan] blocked all evidence being allowed from the Belgium authorities relating to Mr Prunier's involvement. The Belgium authorities used Nick's statement in its own investigation of Prunier and his movements and were keen to give this evidence of such that could prove Nick's innocence to the defence.

There were a number of other vital pieces of evidence to point towards Nick's innocence that were totally disregarded. The fact that the initial customs officers report, filed on the very day of Nick's arrest, neglected to even mention the critical question of the whereabouts of the key to Prunier's suitcase. It was only some three weeks later and exactly one day before Baker's indictment, that the very same customs officer, resubmitting the exact same report, added just a few lines in which he now claimed to have seen Nick throw the key into the case. The officer then changed his story again at the Chiba district court trial, now claiming he had "seen something fly through the air, but not Nick's hand throw anything as he was looking in the direction of the suitcase." Evidence from photographic expert examination of the inside of the suitcase seems also to dispel the officer's testimony by showing the key to be in fact enclosed in a tightly zipped shut net pouch within the suitcase. This would further suggest that the officer was either mistaken or had committed perjury at the Chiba District Court. If there is a likelihood that a key witness in this case committed perjury, it is indeed a very serious matter.

It is blatantly clear that Nick has not received a fair trial and that Japan has not complied with the International law of fair trials (ICCPR) to which it is treaty bound. Under article 14 of the ICCPR it states:

- Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

- In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality:

(a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him;

(b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defense and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing;

(c) To be tried without undue delay;

(d) To be tried in his presence, and to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing; to be informed, if he does not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to him, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by him in any such case if he does not have sufficient means to pay for it;

(e) To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;

(f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court;

(g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or to confess guilt.

In summing up today Judge Tao said, "The drugs were skillfully hidden, and it must be taken into account that their amount was extremely large," Judge Tao also said. "In addition, the defendant has not reflected sincerely on his acts."

It would seem beyond belief that Nick should have to show remorse to the courts for a crime he did not commit. The only crime committed was today's guilty verdict of an innocent man who's life has been turned upside down for the last 3 years, 6 months and 14 days. His Mother Iris has been left absolutely devastated after her courageous fight and campaign to free her son. It has been a very sad day in Japan today and we all pray Nick will have the strength to continue his fight against injustice.

Japanese prosecutors do not have disclose all evidence gathered to the defence. They can pick and choose what to present in court and are able to hide exonerating evidence.

FPSS would like to encourage all members to write letters of concern. Let us not give up on this young man, his courageous mother Iris Baker or his beloved son George!

See how you can help at the following link.. click here

Briton has sentence for drug-smuggling reduced to 11 years
By MASAMI ITO - Staff writer

The Tokyo High Court on Thursday reduced a sentence handed down by a lower court, giving a 34-year-old British man 11 years in prison and fining him 3 million yen for smuggling drugs into Japan.

Nicholas Baker was arrested in April 2002 for possession of 41,120 tablets of Ecstasy and 990 grams of cocaine. The drugs were found at Narita airport in a suitcase with a false bottom that was checked in under Baker's name.

Baker had insisted he was innocent throughout both trials, saying was duped by his traveling companion, a fellow Briton who owned the suitcase.

According to Baker's defense team, the traveling companion was involved in a similar incident in Belgium and used tactics similar to the ones he allegedly used on Baker.

However, the Tokyo District Court convicted the man from Gloucestershire and sentenced him to 14 years imprisonment and fined him 5 million yen. He appealed.

On Thursday, presiding Judge Kenjiro Tao ruled Baker had been part of a drug-smuggling ring and conspired with others to commit the crimes.

Tao said it was hard to believe Baker's claims that the suitcase was not his, particularly as more than half of the items in the suitcase belonged to him.

The defense counsel had argued that there was doubt about the accuracy of the interpreters' translations during police interrogations and during the district court trial.

The defense had submitted to the court a professional interpreter's evaluation of the interpretation done during the first trail. The report says many mistakes were made and some statements were abbreviated.

However, the judge said there was no doubt about the interpreters' skills since they were all professionals and had attained the highest level of the Eiken English language proficiency test or qualified as tour guide interpreters.

Tao said he reduced Baker's sentence because 14 years' imprisonment was too long considering his relatively small role in the drug-smuggling organization.

After the ruling, Baker's chief lawyer, Shunji Miyake, expressed his disappointment.

"It is deeply regrettable that everything we argued in court was dismissed," he said. "Being able to hear and speak English is completely different from having the knowledge to interpret accurately."

Miyake welcomed the reduction of the sentence, but said it was still relatively heavy considering the amount of drugs Baker was convicted of smuggling.

Baker's mother, Iris, who was in Japan for the sentencing, expressed her sadness and disbelief over the ruling.

"I was totally amazed that nothing seemed to have changed from the Chiba (district) court," she said, adding that she was especially disappointed over how the judge ruled that a person qualified as a tour-guide interpreter was skilled enough to act as a courtroom interpreter.

"This is a man's life," she said. "If that is the standard of an interpreter in a court today, I feel sorry for anybody else who has to go before these judges . . . Just like Nick, they are not going to get a fair trial."

The Japan Times: Oct. 28, 2005

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All information is Copyright 1997 - 2005 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff
All information is Copyright 1997 - 2005 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff