לויט ווי איך הער איז דא אין די מלכות החסד אמעריקע די זעלבע זאך ווען א אויסלענדישער ווערט באפרייט נעמט זיך די אימיגרעישן דעפארטמענט אויף אים....
דעס האב איך באקומען אין אימעיל העסקן פון מיילעך בינדיגער וואס געפונט זיך יעצט דארט:
Dear Yidden around the world;
Bechasdei Shomayim, we and the defence attorneys are glad to report that the Chiba District Court ruled in favour of the defense, and handed down a full acquittal ב"ה for Yoel Zev נ"י.
Immediately upon hearing this good news, we exited the court room for a few moments, to convey the besuro tovah to the multitudes of Acheinu Bnei Yisroel who were waiting in suspense for the outcome.
Upon hearing the judges verdict we were choked with emotion and couldn't elaborate. We can now, after closing of the court session, provide more details of what transpired today, try and reflect on the chasodim geluim, and pray for further siyatta dishmaye.
We congratulate the Japanese Judiciary for diligently seeking the truth, and carefully analysing the many diverse element of defense, - many of which are new concepts to the Japanese - and thereby succeeded in delivering the long awaited innocent verdict.
Prior to Court Session:
Ten minutes before the court session commenced, the leading defence attorney accompanied us to visit Yoel Zev at a meeting room under the court house. Through a glass pane we could communicate with Yoel Zev. It was difficult moments. We didn’t know what words can be said. Looming ahead was G-d forbid a possible guilty verdict of a 15 years prison sentence in addition to a penalty of ¥5,000,000.00 (equating to $65,000.00).
After having experienced the disappointment of the verdicts handed to the two other bochurim, Yossy and Yakov Yosef, it was challenging to find the right words of encouragement.
(Yossy, the only juvenile of the three, received a sentence of 5 years, which was what the prosecution had requested from the Judges. Yossy has since been transferred to Israel, where his sentence was commuted under conditions and supervision of the Israeli prison authority.
Yakov Yosef, the younger of the two adult bochurim, received a 6 year prison sentence from the 13 years demanded by the prosecution. He is pending transfer to Israel. The transfer procedure is well underway.)
What can one say to Yoel Zev moments before his verdict, after having faced the fact that his two friends were handed a guilty verdict?
We tried our best to prepare him for every eventuality, carefully using only positive quotes of Emunah and Bitachon, and hoping and praying for the best.
We were most relieved by Yoel Zevs attitude. Yoel Zev said in his innocent manner: “I don’t know what the material judge will tell us today, but the celestial Judge, shofet kol ho’oretz, will certainly rule innocent”.
Upon the judges’ entry to the court room, and the customary Japanese bows, the Judge summoned Yoel Zev, using his first name 'Yoel' - uncommon in Japanese courts formalities - and asked him to stand at the pulpit directly in front of the judges.
The judge immediately announced – in Japanese - the verdict: “You are innocent”. Our personal translator, sitting alongside us, quickly told us in jubilation the courts verdict. The court appointed translator then translated to Yoel Zev “Atah Zakai”. Upon hearing these words, Yoel Zev’s father, ourselves, and other yidden with us, shed tears of jubilation. The relief is indescribable.
Basis of Verdict
The judge than went on to expound his verdict in detail, on the basis of the defense material, explaining how he concluded his judgement, finding Yoel Zev to be ‘not guilty’.
Some of the pertinent points mentioned by the presiding judge:
Taking into account Yoel Zev’s background, education, the place where he lives, etc.
Residing in the town of Bnei Brak, with mostly ultra-orthodox Jews, no cinema or similar recreational venues, very low crime rate. Bnei Brak boasts no manned police post and virtually no televisions. The town of Bnei Brak have created a sheltered society with the objective that the youth have limited contact with secular people.
Yoel Zev studied in the Satmar Yeshiva, belonging to the Satmar community, who are in ways more insular and secluded than mainstream ultra-orthodox Jews.
The Satmar philosophy prohibits the use of Modern Hebrew. Limited command of the Moder-Hebrew language leads to no understanding of the contemporary use of the word Samim.
The ultra-orthodox Jewish press avoid any mention of drug related crime.
The youth in the orthodox Jewish community have not seen narcotics, and have no grasp of the street value of narcotics.
The orthodox Jewish community is close knit and boasts a high level of social trust. In light of that, no suspicion was raised when this assignment was proposed to the boys.
The monetary reward offered to the boys was not reflective of remuneration of a witting mule.
Recognition and knowledge of the luggage containing a false bottom does not prove knowledge of the contents of the false bottom.
Countering the prosecutors argument that - would the boys have truly believed that the contents were antiques, they ought to have questioned why the goods were not being shipped by means of a courier; - the judge explained that in the close knit Jewish community it is common practice for such errands to be requested and graciously accepted.
The results of polygraph examinations proved lack of knowledge.
The court recognised that along the entire trip, including the duration of his apprehension in Narita Airport, never did Yoel Zev exhibit signs of anxiety or nervousness.
[/list]Tens of other explanations were presented elaborately by the presiding judge, quoting extensively from the many live witnesses and sworn affidavits presented by the defense team. These explanations took the better part of two hours.
Closing of Session:
The presiding Judge then apologised – in the name of the Ministry of Justice – for the protracted trial procedure, mentioning that he was sorry that it had taken from April 2008 until August 2011 to deliver the innocent verdict.
At the court room today was present the father of Yoel Zev, whom after the judges left the court room, in an emotionally charged atmosphere, immediately recited the brocho one hears upon learning of good tidings, “Hatoiv vehametiv”.
This was followed by a quick succession of handshakes and congratulations between Yoel Zev, the defence attorneys, the askonim, and on looking well wishers.
Yoel Zev was then escorted from the court room flanked by two officials from the Tokyo Immigration Office.
Post Trial Procedures
We accompanied the leading defense attorney to the Chiba Detention Center to try to meet with Yoel Zev and to guide him on the procedures to follow, however we were pleasantly surprised to learn that we could no longer obtain an audience with him at Chiba since he is immediately being transferred, with all his belongings (clothing and seforim) to the Tokyo Immigration detention centre.
In line with standing practice, immigration officials have taken Yoel Zev into their custody on account of overstaying his 90-day visa in 2008. An explanation to the immigration office stating the cause of Yoel Zev’s delayed exit from Japan was prepared by the legal team, and handed to Yoel Zev this morning (before the verdict), in hope of this eventuality. Attorneys are hopeful this matter will be rectified in an expeditious fashion and that he will be able to leave the country without further delay.
At 8 am local time tomorrow morning, we will all being well be meeting with Yoel Zev at the Immigration Centre. This will be the first audience in three and a half years to take place without a glass barrier between us. We hope the immigration clearance will be swift.
The prosecution office have 14 days in which they could to appeal at the Tokyo High Court the district court’s decision to release Yoel Zev.
The choshuve tzibur are asked to continue to be mispallel for Yoel Zev ben Mirel Risa Chava, for his safe return home.
The efforts to achieve today’s verdict were a culmination of so many kind hearted Yidden, across a broad spectrum, at the helm, Dayan Chid”o Weis of Antwerp, Hagras”h Wosner Shlite, Munkatcher Rebbe Shlite, HaRav Grossman of Midal Emek, Rabbi Y D Bleich of Kiev, Rabbi B Edery of Tokyo, and lhvbchlc”h Rabbi Aba Dunner z”l, among many other Rabonim, dignitaries, professors, lawyers, and activists from within the Jewish community. An exhaustive list would be appropriate but quite impossible. We are indebted to them all.
Current Status of Yakov Yosef ben Reizel:
Efforts to retain Yakov Yosef's status at the Chiba detention centre until his transfer to Israel were b”h productive.
According to Israeli protocol, one third of the full sentence can be deducted, and the remaining time can also be commuted as per their discretion.
According to this, Yakov Yosef could be out of prison within a few months from now.
Efforts are well underway towards expediting his return home to Eretz Yisrael. Please continue to be mispallel for Yaakov Yosef ben Reizel.
May we hear only besuros toivois,
Aron Nezri, London
Meilech Bindinger, Antwerpen
Currently in Tokyo, Japan