Sentence of Youngest Bochur of Japan Trio Commuted by Israel With Approval of Japan


japan-bochur-yosef-bandaYosef Bando, Yosef ben Ita Rivka, the youngest of the three bochurim arrested in Japan back in 2008 who was transferred last March to Eretz Yisroel, had his sentenced commuted by Israel on December 30 and was released yesterday. Last night, askanim tell, he davened Maariv at the Itzkowitz Bais Medrash in Bnei Brak.

Yosef was sentenced on April 30, 2009, to 5 years in jail in Japan. He was subsequently granted his lawyers’ request for him to serve the remainder of his sentence in his home country. He was placed in the Rimonim prison and had been allowed to visit his family several times over the last year.

Taking into account the time that Yosef has already been in the Japanese jail, both prior and after his sentencing, as well as a deduction of a portion of the sentence for good behavior, Yosef was expected to be released after Pesach.

Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, who had first put forth the request to the Japanese Justice Ministry to allow Yosef’s extradition to Israel last year, recommended that the sentence be commuted. The allowance for a pardon request after a third of the term has passed was in place as part of the initial extradition. The Japanese Justice Ministry agreed to the request and Israeli President Shimon Peres issued the pardon. spoke to askanim involved in the case and was reassured that this revelation regarding the commutation of Yossi’s sentence will in no way negatively affect the two other boys, Yaakov Yosef Greenwald (Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel) and Yoel Zev Goldstein (Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava). In fact, Rav Mendel Shafran, a rosh yeshiva in Bnei Brak who is a neighbor of the Bandos, told the family that the commutation should only be pursued if it was clear that the cases of the other boys would proceed independently and would not be affected by the pardon.

The story of the Japan trio began on April 3, 2008, when the three bochurim from Yerushalayim and Bnei Brak – two under age 20 and one under age 18 at the time – were asked to transport some antiques from Amsterdam to Tokyo, Japan. The ‘friend’ who asked them for the favor offered them $1,000 each and assured them that everything was legal.

Once in Amsterdam, they were given the “antiques” – concealed inside false-bottomed suitcases.¬†Told that this was a precaution against theft, they once again suspected nothing, and flew on to Tokyo. In Japan, the false bottoms were quickly detected and broken into by customs officials – who found not antiques, but $3.6 million worth of Ecstasy pills.

Yaakov Yosef Greenwald, who was sentenced on March 24 to six years in prison, is appealing his sentence at this time. In the appeal, a hearing was held in the Tokyo High Court on December 13 to officially set forth the court’s protocol for future proceedings, as follows:

Professor Gershon Ben-Shachar will personally appear in court to testify on January 26. Ms. Reiko Suzuki, the woman who had administered the polygraph test to all three boys and had argued that the results of such testing is not necessarily accurate, will appear one month later to answer to Professor Ben-Shachar’s presentation. Although the delay of another whole month is regrettable, it is unavoidable due to the fact that the prosecution requested that they be given that amount of time to prepare. Professor Ben-Shachar will then be given the opportunity to refute Ms. Suzuki’s testimony by written submission approximately two weeks later, with a possible rebuttal by Ms. Suzuki and rerebuttal by Professor Ben-Shachar to follow. All opinions and counter-opinions must be concluded by the end of March, with a verdict expected in April.

Although in Japan many judges change positions during the month of April, even if Judge Akira Kanaya were to be replaced at that time, he would still be the one to decide and write the verdict, since all matters will have been concluded before then. A new judge would only read the verdict that Judge Kanaya submitted.

In the ongoing trial of Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava, a hearing was held on December 22, and the judge was scheduled to issue his final decision regarding the admission of additional evidence and/or testimony. At the hearing, Judge Masanori Hodoko (who had replaced outgoing Judge Hiroshi Furuta) announced that he would not change the essential direction of the previous court and he would not allow any further witnesses to testify. However, in light of the fact that Professor Ben-Shachar would be testifying in Yaakov Yosef’s appeal on January 26, Judge Hodoko agreed to wait and see what the outcome would be before deciding the case.¬† Records of Professor Ben-Shachar’s testimony would be submitted to his court as well. Judge Hodoko actually apologized to Yoel Zev several times about the fact that this delay would further postpone the conclusion of the case, but we hope and pray that this delay will be to Yoel Zev’s benefit.

On December 27, Rabbi Nezri and Rabbi Meilech Bindinger travelled to Eretz Yisroel to personally confer with Professor Ben-Shachar. During a meeting of several hours, they reviewed the entire case, examining the polygraph issue from all possible angles. The meeting was very productive and many important points were raised and studied. After analyzing all the charts and reports, Profession Ben-Shachar once again reiterated that despite any possible problems in the testing, the results achieved by all three boys were incredible and clearly proved that the boys had no knowledge whatsoever of what they were transporting in their suitcases. Additionally, there are many levels and types of polygraph testing, and the technology used in Japan, the CIT (Concealed Information Test), is the most advanced of all. Another point in the defense’s favor is the fact that all three boys underwent the “card test,” a preliminary test to confirm that the individual responds normally to psychological/mental stimulus. As all three boys passed this assessment perfectly, the prosecution will not be able to argue that they were not fitting subjects for the polygraph test.


Winter has arrived in Japan, but Yaakov Yosef and Yoel Zev do not have the luxury of a warm home, apartment, or even prison cell to relieve the cold. Unbelievably, the entire prison building is unheated during winter and not air-conditioned during summer. It is as cold inside as it is outdoors. The only time they can be somewhat comfortable is during the fall and spring months, when temperatures are moderate.

In anticipation of the harsh winter weather, askanim made sure to provide the boys with warm clothing already in November. Prisoners are allowed ten articles of clothing at a time (a pair of socks being considered two separate items), and the boys have some of their own winter clothes with them, while Rabbi Binyomin Edery, the Chabad shliach in Tokyo who is moser nefesh to visit them regularly, has the rest. New articles of clothing were purchased for them as well – anything to give them a sense of renewal, a sense of not having been forgotten.

All are asked to keep Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava in their tefillos.

{Yossi Newscenter}