Zanis Klepeckis
Latvian Acquitted of Smuggling Drugs

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Lay-judge trial of Latvian man facing drug charges to last lengthy 2 months

A lay-judge trial of a Latvian man accused of smuggling illegal stimulants into Japan will last almost two months -- an unusually long time -- as the man requires an interpreter and is contesting the charges on all fronts.

The 32-year-old man, Zanis Klepeckis, is accused of collaborating with an unknown person in October 2010 to have a statue containing around 10 kilograms of illegal stimulants sent from South Africa to him in Yokohama via Narita Airport.

The defense is prepared to contest the defendant's collaboration and intention to receive the stimulants, his knowledge of the stimulants being hidden in the statue, as well as the accuracy of his interpreters during police questioning and whether there was coercion or not. For this reason, as many as 20 people including police officers, prosecutors and interpreters are expected to be questioned in the trial.

A prosecutor has criticized the length of the trial, saying, "The burden on the lay judges (who are ordinary citizens) is too great."

In a previous case, a lay-judge trial for an arson attack at an Osaka pachinko parlor lasted 60 days.

(Mainichi Japan) December 12, 2011

Lay judge trial acquits Latvian in drug smuggling case

March 7, 2012

A Latvian man accused of smuggling drugs into Japan from South Africa was acquitted in a lay judge trial at the Tokyo District Court on March 12.

Zanis Klepeckis, 32, was indicted in October 2010 on suspicion of conspiring with unknown accomplices to have a statue filled with 10 kilograms of an unnamed stimulant shipped from South Africa to a room under his name at a Yokohama hotel. He had consistently denied any involvement since his arrest. If found guilty Klepeckis would have faced a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison and an 8 million yen fine.

The trial focused on whether Klepeckis knew that there were drugs in the statue and whether he was in fact part of a smuggling conspiracy. The judgment pointed out that Klepeckis had not instructed the hotel on what to do if a package arrived for him while he was out, stating that "this is not at all consistent with the attitude of someone there to pick up a delivery" and declaring that Klepeckis was not aware of the statue's contents.

Klepeckis's attorney argued from the beginning of the trial -- which lasted one and a half months -- that the defendant was not guilty on all counts, and called 14 witnesses in support of Klepeckis's case. Much of the witnesses' testimony had to go through an interpreter, and "sorting everything out in my head was pretty difficult," one lay judge told reporters after the verdict.

Klepeckis's case marks the 16th time -- 7th in a stimulant case -- a lay judge panel has handed down a verdict of not guilty on all counts of an indictment.

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覚醒剤密輸:ラトビア男性、2審も無罪に 東京高裁
毎日新聞 20120828日 1204分(最終更新 0828日 1251分)
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