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Prisoners in Sugamo and their campaign for release, 1952–1953

Wilson, S.ORCID: 0000-0002-8341-3120 (2011) Prisoners in Sugamo and their campaign for release, 1952–1953. Japanese Studies, 31 (2). pp. 171-190.

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The great majority of Japanese war criminals served part or all of their sentences in Sugamo Prison in Tokyo, either because they had been tried in Japan, or after repatriation from overseas. Once convicted, they tended to be invisible in historical accounts of the post-war period, but in fact they were not cut off from Japanese society or politics in the 1950s. Rather, Sugamo's inmates worked hard to win public sympathy, also exerting considerable pressure on the government in an attempt to hasten their own release and to have Japanese prisoners repatriated from overseas gaols. The early 1950s were crucial, not least because the 1952 peace treaty stipulated that the countries that had originally prosecuted them retained the right to decide on prisoners' fates even after Japan regained its sovereignty. Moreover, convicted war criminals were increasingly concentrated in Sugamo, allowing many opportunities for political activity and other campaigning. Though the last war criminals were not freed until 1958, prisoners' activities in the early 1950s played an important part in changing the terms in which discussion of war criminals took place and thus in making it more and more difficult for foreign governments to maintain their original stance on war criminals.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: © 2011 Japanese Studies Association of Australia.
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