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Japanese Man Jailed In Belarus For Arms Smuggling To Be Released

Daichi Yoshida's mother, Yoko Yoshida (left), and his brother Seyja Yoshida look at a portrait of Daichi drawn by Seyja during a prison visit.

A Japanese military-history buff who is in prison in Belarus on arms-smuggling charges will be released in days, his relatives say.

Daichi Yoshida's relatives told RFE/RL on May 14 that his 4 1/2-year prison sentence was reduced by 21 months and he is expected to be released on May 21.

Yoshida's lawyer Dzmitry Shylau told RFE/RL earlier 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 him.

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 that her son is 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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    RFE/RL's Belarus Service

    RFE/RL's Belarus Service is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. It is a bulwark against pervasive Russian propaganda and defies the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media.