Exclusive: Last Bochur in Japan Expected to Be Transferred to Israel Soon


japan-yaakov-yosefIt is about nine months since Yaakov Yosef Grunwald’s appeal rejection, which set in motion transfer proceedings to Israel, and now, Matzav.com has learned, his release from Japanese prison could be imminent. A letter issued by the Japanese Justice Ministry yesterday indicated that it has taken the next step in extraditing Yaakov Yosef to Israel, where he would serve the duration of his six-year prison term.

The Israeli yeshivah bochur, who was arrested in 2008 when drugs were found in a false bottom of his suitcase, is still in his Japanese detention cell, although all immigration procedures needed for the transfer have been completed for months now. The final release and deportation orders were signed months ago, and his belongings are packed and all ready to go.

Askanim were pleasantly surprised back in early September when all the required documents, normally the biggest headache in a bureaucracy, were already signed and returned. The Israeli Ministry of Justice replied fairly quickly to a Japanese questionnaire asking where Yaakov Yosef would potentially serve the remainder of his sentence, in what conditions and when will he be eligible for early release under Israeli law.

In a nutshell, what has held up Japan’s release of Yaakov Yosef is their reaction to what they deem to have been Israeli leniency in commuting the sentences of the previous two boys. The Japanese thus wish to have Yaakov Yosef serve at least two-thirds of sentence in Japan before releasing him. That will be in early April, at which time the Japanese are expected to permit Yaakov Yosef to be taken to Israel.

Initially, there was hope that Yaakov Yosef would be transferred at least two weeks before Rosh Hashanah.

The appeal of Yaakov Yosef, who had received a six-year sentence, benefited his friend Yoel Zev Goldstein, who received a rare acquittal in August and has already returned to Israel.

Yossi, the first of the bochurim to stand trial, was sentenced to five to eight years in prison. Close to a year after his May 2009 verdict he was transferred to Israel.

According to Japanese law, a prisoner is eligible for parole after serving a third of his sentence, while Israeli law requires serving two-thirds (although in Japan n one receives parole before serving 75% of a sentence).

Yossi, who was now governed by Israeli law, still had quite some time to serve before completing the two-thirds to enable him to appear before a parole board. Therefore he requested that his sentence be commuted, which would mean he would be released on parole sooner. In January 2011, the Israeli Gov commuted his sentence to the more lenient interpretation of five years, of which he had already served nearly half.

Yossi’s sentence was eventually commuted, which enabled him to appear before the parole board, and he was released on parole and is now bound to the strict parole conditions.

The Japanese Ministry of Justice, upon hearing of the release last February and receiving information of various media reports that Yossi was “pardoned” triggered the Ministry of Justice in Japan to open an inquiry as to what had really happened to Yossi and under what circumstances was he released, and requested for a full account in order to verify whether Yossi was pardoned or merely released on parole. The Ministry of Justice in Israel had replied and had given a full report on the events that led to the release of Yossi that clearly stressed that he was released on parole rather than a pardon, but somewhere in the Hebrew to English translation it appeared to the Japanese that he had perhaps received a “partial pardon” rather than the agreed parole.

The red flags were then raised for the second time. The Japanese then asked for a full brief on Israeli pardon law and whether Yaakov Yosef could conceivably be pardoned prior to serving out his term. They also demanded further proof that Yossi was not pardoned, partially or fully.

Nearly six weeks (November 1) after the Israelis had translated their pardon laws and sent it to Japan, there was notification of a correspondence from the Ministry of Justice in Japan and everyone was excited, because all that was needed was the final reply from the Japanese and Yakov Yosef was literally waiting by the door to be collected, but when the letter was opened, the excitement was over in seconds. The new letter from the Ministry of Justice in Japan was just raising further inquiries relating to those laws.

Meanwhile, Yaakov Yosef is still waiting for the day he can see and hug his parents, and meet his sister’s husband, whom he has never met, and the child they had, as well as his new sibling who was born while he was in prison. Yaakov Yosef was the strong one among the three bochurim. The tantalizing taste of freedom which appears so near but keeps getting bogged down in a sea of bureaucracy weighs on him and his parents. Please daven for Yaakov Yosef ben Reizel.

{Noam Amdurski – Exclusive for Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. “Yaakov Yosef was the strong one among the three bochurim.” Not a nice sentence. Should be deleted. Why praise him at the expense of the others?

  2. Great news! But he’s not home yet and hopefully, everything will go smooth for him and he will be back with his family very soon. Now that it’s chodesh Adar and upcoming Purim, we pray things should look up for klal Yisrael, in general.

  3. Israel did not commute the sentence of the oldest bochur; he was acquitted in Japan! Does this mean that Yaakov Yosef cannot be released from Japan until the beginning of April?