At the Chiba district court in Japan, the closing arguments, being the final hearing for the third of the three boys, Yoel Zev, began at 10 a.m. local time.
Yoel Zev was brought in at 9:55, accompanied by two guards, and was seated on a bench in front of the defense team’s table.
In order for Yoel Zev to understand the proceedings, an ear piece connected to the court-appointed interpreter’s microphone was placed on Yoel Zev.
The judges walked into the court room and bowed, as is the Japanese custom.
The presiding judge first announced that the court rejects the recent evidence by a graphologist – a handwriting expert – that showed that the recent evidence of Ms. Reiko Suzuki – who had administered the polygraph tests to the boys – had been forged.
On the judge’s bench in the courtroom were a new minor judge and a new prosecutor. The new minor judge, who has never worked as justice before and is very young, has replaced the last minor judge of the three previous judges, led by presiding Judge Furuta, a hardliner who has never acquitted anyone before.
[After the trial, Yoel Zev said that last year, on Chol Hamoed Sukkos, he attended one of his pre-trial hearings and was given Arba Minim after the hearing and, with the permission of the judge, he made a bracha out loud and was shaking it in front of the old panel of judges. He now says, “Ich hob geshokeled un geshokeled and they have all disappeared.”]
The proceedings began at 10:05 with the prosecutor reading out his closing arguments.
It was 10:32 when the prosecutor concluded that due to Yoel being older in age and not a minor when he entered Japan, he deserves a longer punishment and a heavier fine – a 15-year prison sentence and a 5 million yen fine ($62,000).
Upon hearing this, Yoel Zev stayed calm and the chief defense lawyer, Mr. Miyake, stood up and began his defense closing argument, followed by Mr. Nakamura and Mr. Takano. At 12:55, Mr. Takano concluded and Mr. Miyake stood in front of the judges and gave his final words to the judge in relation to Yoel Zev’s suffering and innocence.
When the procedure was concluded, the judge asked Yoel Zev to stand up and asked him if he wants to say something to the court, as this was his last opportunity. He replied, “Yes,” and asked the judge to allow him to sit down rather than stand, as all defendants do.
Yoel said as follows:
“Honorable judge, I have been observing the Biblical orders from my Almighty since I was born. I have prayed at least three times a day since my childhood. I have always been an honest, studious, hard-working and good person.
“I spent most of my spare time in hospitals assisting and bringing joy to sick and elderly patients.
“I have never hurt anyone in my life. I would never do something that could cause a person pain, illness or death.
“It was my duty, great honor and pleasure to study the Jewish law in Israel and I continued to study the same even in the small cell of Chiba Detention Center in Japan.
“In CDC, I have been deprived of kosher food as strictly prescribed by Jewish law. This has harmed my physical and emotional health.
“Sometimes I wonder why I have been unjustly kept in a small cell for more than three years.
“I always concluded that the Almighty ordered this hardship upon me, and it is my obligation to pray for His salvation according to the Jewish heritage and to accept what the Almighty has decreed upon me.
“As the honorable judges are aware, I innocently trusted a member of my community. I am still shocked how people can be so wicked.
“The judge surely believes me. I am not saying lies. I am speaking from my heart.
“I have testified truthfully to the court, exactly according to my memory, and have not hidden anything. I therefore have no fear and I am confident that the judge will see my innocence.
“I would like to thank to the court for hearing my case thoroughly and carefully.”
The judge set the verdict day for August 29 and actually apologized to Yoel Zev for having to keep him in detention for a longer period. This is not the first time that the presiding judge has apologized.
Present at the trial were Yoel Zev’s brother-in-law, Dayan Chaim Yosef Dovid Weis of Antwerp, Reb Aron Nezri, Reb Meilech Bindinger and a few other volunteers who came to give support.
After the hearing, Aron Nezri visited Yoel Zev at the detention center and he was in very good spirits. He said that he was not shocked to hear that the prosecutor demands a 15-year sentence and that he continues to rely on Hashem and on the tefillos of Klal Yisroel.
Both Yoel Zev and Yaakov Yosef were visited after the hearing by Meilech Bindinger, Aron Nezri, Dayan Weis and the few other visitors who came to show support.
Aron Nezri arrived a day earlier to finalize with the lawyers the closing arguments and to help Yoel Zev prepare his final speech for the judges. Rabbi Nezri also met both boys before the final lawyers’ meeting.
Yaakov Yosef told Rabbi Nezri that he already sent out all his seforim and belongings, so that on the verdict date he won’t have to go back to the detention center to collect his belongings and so that hhe can go straight to the immigration department to get ready to go home. He also told the guards that he is leaving on Monday and thanked them for their good treatment and assistance.
Yaakov Yosef’s verdict will be held this coming Monday, at 2 p.m. local time, 6 a.m. UK time, 1 a.m. US EST time.
All are asked to continue davening for Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava.