TOKYO, April 7 — The World Boxing Council yesterday presented an honorary championship belt to Iwao Hakamada, who was recently released from jail following a court decision to hold a retrial for him over robbery, murder and arson in 1966 for which he was sentenced to death.
A presentation ceremony for Hakamada, a former Japanese professional boxer, took place at a Tokyo gymnasium where WBC boxing matches were held, Japan’s news agency Jiji Press reported.
His elder sister, Hideko, received the belt from WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman on behalf of her 78-year-old brother who is now hospitalised.
“We owe a lot to people in the boxing world,” Hideko said in expressing her gratitude to supporters.
After the ceremony, Hideko said: “I’m happy that Iwao has been released. I was very happy to hear the applause from the audience.”
“I want to show the belt to my brother early, and I want to watch boxing matches with him after he gets well.”
Sulaiman said he is happy that justice has been achieved and Hakamada has been freed.
The WBC has continued supporting Hakamada through measures such as collecting signatures from former and incumbent WBC champions to seek his release.
Hakamada was convicted of killing four members of a family, robbing them and setting their home on fire in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan in June 1966, and his death sentence was finalised in 1980.
On March 27 this year, the Shizuoka District Court decided to hold a retrial for Hakamada, saying that there was a possibility that investigative authorities may have fabricated key pieces of evidence to establish the charges against him. Hakamada was released within the day.
On the same day, the WBC decided to name Hakamada “honorary champion” and present him with the honorary championship belt. — Bernama