Last Wednesday, 10th March, Anna Smart (local activist and East Asia Regional Coodinator) took photos of the local Shrewsbury Amnesty Group and many other activists to the Japanese Embassy as part of a large birthday card for Hakamada Iwao.
The case of the world’s longest serving death row prisoner is one that has particularly
grabbed the attention of activists over the last year or so. Many people Anna speaks to are
surprised that Japan still uses the death penalty at all. It is even more shocking that
someone can be sentenced to death having had an unfair trial and then left waiting to die
for over forty years.
When Anna first sent the email out to local groups from across the UK asking them to take photos holding the
phrase ‘Free Hakamada’ in Japanese on a piece of paper, I wasn’t sure what kind of a
response I would receive. But the reaction from local groups and youth activists was
great – we received over 60 photos in total! The design team at Amnesty did a fantastic
job of turning these photos into a giant card demonstrating the concern of people in the
The press release Anna and AIUK sent out was picked up by media in her local area, Birmingham. An
article appeared in the Birmingham Mail about the action, and she was interviewed by BBC
On 10 March, to mark Hakamada Iwao’s 74th birthday, Anna took the card along to the Japanese
Embassy along with Amnesty Individuals At Risk Campaigner Natalie, Death Penalty
Campaigner Kim and the MP Alastair Carmichael who is the Chair of the All-Parliamentary
Group Against the Death Penalty. I think the Embassy official was very impressed that
there was clearly widespread concern in the UK about this case, and he said that he would
take photos of it and send them to Japan. We spent over an hour talking to him at the
Embassy – he seemed interested in what we were saying and promised to pass on our concerns
to the Ambassador.
Amnesty Japan have shown the pictures to Hideko Hakamada (Iwao’s sister) and supporters
group and they are all really encouraged by the action – Hideko took the photos along when
she went to visit her brother in prison!
I’d like to congratulate Anna on what has been a fantastic campaign action. If you want to support Anna in her campaigning on Hakamada and East Asia do contact her at email@example.com
To find out more about Shrewsbury Amnesty International Group visit http://www.amnesty-shrewsbury.org.uk/