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Japan immigration

Charges dropped against Japan officials over Sri Lankan woman's death

33-year-old was held in detention at an immigration center

Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali's sisters leave the prosecutors' office in Nagoya, Japan, on June 17.   © Kyodo

NAGOYA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Prosecutors on Friday dropped charges against 13 then senior officials of an immigration center in central Japan over the death of a Sri Lankan woman while in detention at the facility.

The Nagoya District Public Prosecutors Office told the family of Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali that they could not say that the officials failed to provide her with appropriate medical care.

She died at 33 on March 6 last year at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau following a month of medical complaints, including vomiting and stomachaches. Her death garnered significant attention, sparking an outcry over her treatment.

Dissatisfied with the decision, her family said they plan to file a request with the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution to continue pressing for the criminal liability of the officials. The committee reviews decisions by the prosecutors.

Last November, the family filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutors' office, accusing the officials of committing murder and failing to provide proper medical care to Wishma.

The complaint was made against the director and deputy director of the facility, as well as officers in charge on the day of Wishma's death.

According to the complaint, the director has a duty to take appropriate measures when a detainee complains of poor health and that the bureau's treatment amounted to willful negligence. They also said the officials did not care if she died.

The prosecutors have been investigating the case by interviewing the facility's staff members and analyzing related documents.

An official at the Immigration Services Agency of Japan declined to comment on the prosecutors' decision, saying they were not in a position to do so.

The agency said in an investigative report issued in August last year that the immigration center staff lacked the ability to handle crises but that it could not determine the precise cause of Wishma's death.

Wishma, who came to Japan in 2017 on a student visa, was taken to the facility in Nagoya in August 2020 after overstaying her visa.

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