Photo by: BBC News

A court in Japan has granted a retrial to a man – thought to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate – who was sentenced to hang for the murders of a family of four almost six decades ago.

The Tokyo high court ruled on Monday that Iwao Hakamada, 87, should be tried again for the crimes in a decision campaigners said was a “step towards justice”.

Hakamada was convicted of the murders in 1968 and spent 45 years on death row before new evidence led to his release in 2014. At the time of his release, he was thought to be the world’s longest-serving death row inmate.

The former boxer initially confessed to the murders but later retracted his confession and insisted he was innocent throughout his two-year trial. His death sentence was finalised in 1980.

Hakamada’s lawyers unfurled banners reading “retrial” after Monday’s ruling, while his sister, Hideko, voiced relief that decades of pressure had succeeded.

Japan, the only G7 country along with the US to retain capital punishment, has drawn international criticism of its “secret” executions.

Campaigners have used Hakamada’s case to accuse Japanese authorities of driving prisoners insane and subjecting them to “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment.