Japan Update: What is Happening With the Last Bochur


japan-yaakov-yosefIt is almost six months since Yaakov Yosef’s appeal rejection, which set in motion transfer proceedings to Israel. But 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 has been completed with the final release and deportation order signed, his belongings are packed and all ready to go.

Askanim were pleasantly surprised when by early September 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.

Initially, there was hope that Yaakov Yosef would be transferred at least two weeks before Rosh Hashanah. That would allow him time to be assigned a prison, allowing him to take a furlough for 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 nobody 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 in February and receiving information of various media reports that Yossi was “pardoned” triggered the MOJ in Japan to open an enquiry 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 MOJ 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 then the agreed parole.

The red flags were now raised for the second time. The Japanese now 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 MOJ in Japan and everyone was excited because all that was needed now is 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. This new letter from the Ministry of Justice in Japan was just a letter raising further inquiries relating to those laws. The situation was terrible and one cannot imagine the pain of Yakov Yosefs family and the askonim who had now a task to try to clear this matter up once and for all and to avoid any further inquiries.

After two weeks of receiving the inquiries and after putting their final touches on their replies, which were examined thoroughly by
experts in law and in the English language for accuracy and clarity, in order to avoid any further misunderstandings or further inquiries, the replies were eventually sent to the Ministry of justice in Japan and has since been received. This will hopefully expedite the transfer shortly.

Meanwhile, Yaakov Yosef Grunwald is 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. He has been the strong one of 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-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. We must include Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel in our reciting Tehilim to expedite the release of this poor young man. May his release be immediate-amen!

  2. **information of various media reports that Yossi was “pardoned”**

    If media distorted the events to such a degree, I hope that Yaakov Yosef considers legal action against those publications. They have caused him serious damage.

  3. Response to comment #5:

    I question whether the Japanese officials pay much heed to media reports. Professionalism demands otherwise. Japanese and Israel officials are in the position to correct inaccurate reports, not be guided by them. I would think that good lines of communication should have been established among the Israeli and Japanese officials, so much so that media reports would be almost unimportant.

    We all need to be aware of media innaccuracies, inflammatory rhetoric, etc. We all need to do our part to correct them.

    It is two days before Passover, 2012. Still no word that Yaakov Yosef is being released, although 2/3 of his sentence is complete. What is happeneing?