An Australian man released after spending more than a month in detention in Tokyo is asking for a review of the country’s family custody system.
Scott McIntyre, a Tokyo-based sports journalist and former SBS reporter, was arrested on raid charges when he went to his father-in-law’s apartment building to look for his children, whom he said he had not seen in months.
He was released on bail last week after pleading guilty to the charges, and on Wednesday he received a suspended six-month prison sentence.
Unlike most developed countries, Japan does not have a shared custody system after divorce.
“The state of Japan has failed me and has failed other parents by providing information or access to our children,” McIntyre told a news conference on Thursday.
“When we try out of frustration to find out this information, we are arrested, detained and put in terrible conditions and tortured.”
“I was detained in facilities with all kinds of people who had committed some types of serious crimes.”
McIntyre said that when he complained about the conditions, including 24-hour light, he was threatened with isolation or a straitjacket.
He said in Japan, “children are being used as pawns in this situation” and it was “abuse of human rights” towards children.
McIntyre, who reported football on SBS, was arrested on November 28 for entering the common area of the building where his wife’s parents live at the end of October in an attempt to find their children, who are now 11 and 7 years old.
Japan’s judicial system has drawn worldwide attention to the prolonged detention, and subsequent flight, of former car executive Carlos Ghosn in what critics have described as a “hostage justice” system.
Previously, McIntyre came out of court with a shirt with the words “Stop Parental Child Abduction” printed in Japanese and English.
He told reporters that his children had been taken away when he separated from his wife in May last year.
“I have not seen my children now for almost 250 days.
“All we want is for … Japan to join the rest of the civilized world to implement a joint custody system.”
He said he had made numerous requests to the police and his wife’s lawyers, the two are going through a divorce mediation, to let him know if the children are safe, but that they were ignored.
On the day of the illegal entry, he had been worried about his children after a typhoon that swept the region, he said.
Prosecutors said McIntyre’s wife had claimed McIntyre’s physical violence against her daughter, which he denied, and the material presented by the prosecution was dismissed as irrelevant to the rape charge.
It was also unclear why he was arrested more than a month after the illegal entry, or why he had been detained for so long.
A previous request for bail was denied because it could destroy evidence or flee the country.
Additional reports: Reuters