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Belarusian Supreme Court Upholds Japanese Man's Arms-Smuggling Conviction


Daichi Yoshida (file photo)

The Supreme Court of Belarus has rejected an appeal from a Japanese military-history buff who is in prison on arms-smuggling charges after he brought antique gun parts into the country.

Daichi Yoshida's lawyer, Dzmitry Shylau, told RFE/RL on February 20 that he had received the court's decision by mail.

The ruling, dated February 13, says that Yoshida's appeal against his conviction and 4 1/2-year prison sentence was rejected because his "guilt in committing the crime he was convicted of has been proved."

Shylau says that his client had no intention of violating the law and was only transiting Belarus with vintage gun parts that he acquired as a collector.

Yoshida was arrested in Belarus in August 2016 while seeking to return to Japan from Ukraine, where he bought 10 locks and four barrels from vintage bolt-action Russian-made Mosin-Nagant rifles dating back to the late 19th century.

Security officers at Kyiv's Zhulyany Airport assured him that his luggage was fine, but Belarusian authorities at the Minsk airport said that the gun parts were suitable for modern weapons and arrested the artist.

Yoshida, a 27-year-old comic-book artist who says he is innocent, is serving his prison term in a high-security prison in the northeastern city of Vitsebsk.

His mother, Yoko Yoshida, told RFE/RL earlier this year that her son was suffering from depression and "struggling" to survive.

In a letter scrawled in English, Yoshida himself said he was in "terrible condition" and suggested he was mentally broken.

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