From Japan: Yoel Zev’s Verdict Set for Monday


japan-ben-shachar-lawyersIt’s one of the most common questions we receive here at So what’s with the boys in Japan? You all read reports here on and then there is a lull, as we all wait for good news and as the tireless askanim work behind the scenes to ensure that everything is being done on behalf of Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava. Although the plight of the two boys imprisoned in Japan has largely been out of the public spotlight during these two months except for reports here on and brief updates in some other media outlets, efforts by askanim on the boys’ behalf have continued.

Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava is still imprisoned, awaiting his final verdict, which is scheduled for next week, Monday, Erev Rosh Chodesh Elul, August 29. The weather in Japan is extremely hot and humid. Rabbi Aron Nezri has told us that it is simply difficult to breathe due to the tremendous heat and humidity. Neither Yaakov Yosef nor Yoel Zev has any sort of air conditioning or even a fan. However, in the room where they meet with visitors, there is air conditioning, and therefore, everything is done to get them to the meeting rooms with visitors or lawyers as often as possible to give them relief. The short time that they are allowed to spend in a small enclosed area outdoors twice a week provides little to no relief.

As we approach Yoel Zev’s verdict date, after months and months of waiting, all are asked to daven and learn for Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava.

Over three months have passed since May 16, the fateful day when the Tokyo High Court denied the appeal of Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and upheld the guilty verdict handed down by the Chiba District Court.

As reported at the time of the verdict, there is a prisoner transfer agreement in place between Japan and Israel, and thus, according to Japanese law, a prisoner legally need not be held even one day in Japan, but can be transferred to his own country. The reality, however, is far different. Transfers usually take a long time, as was the case with Yossi, the youngest of the three boys who were arrested at Narita International Airport over three years ago.

With Yaakov Yosef, who is not a minor, time was of the essence, as he was in very real danger of being sent to a harsh prison labor camp, where, aside from the great physical suffering he would have to endure, he would be unable to perform even basic mitzvos, such as keeping Shabbos and wearing tefillin. Askanim had no time to waste and immediately got to work setting the transfer process in motion, accomplishing in four weeks what usually takes several months to put into place.

The initial step was for Yaakov Yosef to sign a waiver for any further appeal. Since Yaakov Yosef knew that once he signed this document he would officially be considered a prisoner of the state and would no longer be allowed visitors on a daily basis, he waited until his father left a week after the trial to sign the document so that he would be able to see him as often as possible until his departure.

Complications also arose due to the fact that the appeal had taken place in the Tokyo district, but the detainee was being held in the Chiba district.  Thus, important documents needed to close the case were sent back and forth between the Tokyo High Court, the Tokyo High Prosecutors Office, the Chiba District Prosecutor’s Office, and the detention center. The lawyers and askanim were kept busy applying pressure to any and all parties involved, and they greatly succeeded in accelerating the process at an unprecedented pace in any such cases. The argument was that due to the detainee being held in the Chiba Prefecture, the case falls under the Chiba’s Prosecution Office’s jurisdiction. The Chiba Prosecutor’s Office claimed that the case was dealt with by the Tokyo High Court and was taken over by the Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office and, therefore, they are responsible for the case.

This case was very unusual, as all detainees on trial in Tokyo are transferred to the Tokyo Detention Center. In this particular circumstance, as mentioned in the past, a special request was made to keep Yaakov Yosef at the detention center in Chiba due to the special care that he receives there that he would not receive in Tokyo. The High Court judge gave a surprising ruling in Yaakov Yosef’s favor.

At this time, documentary procedures, both on the Japanese side and the Israeli side, have been completed, and the review process is underway. Both sides need to review the documentation of the other country. The Japanese will want to know where in Israel the prisoner will be taken and at what point he will be allowed to request release. Then a contract will need to be drawn up between the two countries, and certain conditions may be included.  Correspondence between Japan and Israel does take some time, although askanim have been assured that the process will be handled as expeditiously as possible.

Perhaps most significant was the achievement of having Yaakov Yosef remain in the Chiba Detention Center as opposed to being transferred to a prison camp. The askanim explored every avenue possible to accomplish this. Firstly, they used the fact that Yaakov Yosef had been allowed to remain in Chiba during the appeal at the Tokyo High Court despite the fact that protocol dictated that he be transferred to the detention center in Tokyo as a precedent.  They argued that if the court agreed that conditions at the Tokyo Detention Center would be too difficult for the defendant while awaiting trial, they must surely agree that he would not be able to tolerate conditions in a prison labor camp. Additionally, since Japanese law dictates that Yaakov Yosef need not be held in Japan at all but can be transferred to his own country to serve out his sentence, why should he enter the six-month training program that all prisoners must undergo to prepare them for prison camp if he will not be remaining in Japan in the long run?

With great siyata diShmaya, Yaakov Yosef was allowed to remain in the Chiba Detention Center, in the same room that he was in until now, where he has all his seforim and other items that are important to him. However, certain prison rules have been imposed upon him, making his stay much more difficult. Firstly, he is limited to only two visits per month, while previously he had been receiving visitors almost daily.

Yaakov Yosef is no longer allowed to purchase or receive food such as bread, fresh fruit, and preserved fruits from the canteen. The prison rations are extremely meager, and given Yaakov Yosef’s kashrus constraints, he was not getting nearly enough food to survive. He became very weak and ill as a result, until lawyers, askanim and others were able to convince the prison authorities that while other prisoners might purchase luxury edibles such as chocolate, chips and biscuits in the canteen, Yaakov Yosef was using his canteen purchases as a means of survival. Although he did not receive permission to continue purchasing food, his rations were increased somewhat.

In a clear manifestation of Hashgachah Elyonah, the prison authorities did not force Yaakov Yosef to shave his facial hair as they require of all prisoners. Regarding Yaakov Yosef’s tefillin, while until now he was able to use them as long as he desired, he is now given them for one hour a day. Although the authorities initially only wanted to allow a half hour per day, askanim were able to stretch it to a full hour and arranged that the hour be in the early morning so that he can daven Shacharis while wearing the tefillin.

Although Yaakov Yosef was previously weak, his spirit is unbelievably strong. He has written several powerful letters that demonstrate his emunah and bitachon.

All are asked to continue davening that Yaakov Yosef be transferred quickly and that Yoel Zev merit a positive verdict this coming week. Continue to be mispallel for Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava.

{Shmiel Newscenter}


  1. May Hashem be merachem on these two boys and may, they, miraculously, be sent back home to Eretz Yisroel. We need to continue saying Tehilim for them until they are finally released. It is no wonder that all those reidot adamah are happening in Japan (just last week again, big) when this is their level of rachamim! Even though they know that the boys are innocent and were duped, they still will not release them. Unbelievable. Until the world wakes up and shows righteousness and justice, afraid that Hashem will keep sending these warnings of natural disasters to the world, as we just had with the earthquake here (which is very unusual). And, mostly, our yidden need to work as hard as possible on doing tshuvah, achdut and ahavat chinam for one another, so the Geulah will come speedily b’rachamim. Saying Tehilim and davening for these boys is the best way to start.

  2. There should be a campaign to educate our young people to the dangers of drugs. There is a lesson to be learned from everything.