Jailbreak, Japan!

It has not been a good couple of weeks for Japan's police officers or their colleagues in the prison service.

TOKYO, Japan — Earlier this week a convict managed to scale a 5-meter-high prison fence and escape from Hiroshima prison in broad daylight.

To compound the prison authorities' embarrassment, Li Guolin, who had served three and a half years of a 23-year sentence for attempted murder, escaped during an exercise session, wearing only his underwear.

Officials said Li's escape was the first from a Japanese prison since 1989.

His bid for freedom didn't last long, however. Two days later he was apprehended near an elementary school in the same city, carrying a knife and wearing clothes he is thought to have stolen from a house.

Just days earlier, police came under pressure to review arrest procedures after a man suspected of murdering two Taiwanese students in Tokyo slit his own throat as he was being taken away in a patrol car for questioning.

The officers accompanying Chang Chih-yang had not restrained him or searched him for weapons, reports said.

On New Year's Eve, police in Tokyo almost let slip one of the country's most wanted fugitives: Makoto Hirata, a former member of Aum Supreme Truth, the doomsday cult behind the fatal gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

After 17 years on the run Hirata, who was wanted in connection with the kidnapping and murder of a public servant whose sister wanted to leave the cult, decided to give himself up.

But he was sent packing by the officer on duty when he attempted to turn himself in at a police station in central Tokyo.

When he tried a second time, the officer, convinced Hirata was a prankster, directed him to another police station several hundred meters away.

There is no word on the fate of the officer who gave Hirata an opportunity to rethink his decision to surrender. Presumably he won't be placed in charge of suspect identification: Hirata's face had stared down from 150,000 wanted posters and his physical appearance had changed little during his time on the run.

The last word should go to the Asahi Shimbun's Vox Populi, Vox Dei column, which said simply: "The police should be ashamed of themselves."

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