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Thanks djarmag for posting the photos.
I had this same problem with my '96 RAV4, front door driver's side, that we finally resolved today.
The photos helped us locate and understand the lock mechanism. However, instead of trying to use a coat hanger, we focused on figuring out how to remove the door panel even though the door was closed. For a while, we thought it was virtually impossible without ruining the door panel. Then we realized that the screw that is hidden due to the door being closed could actually be hack sawed through, coming at it through the open window with the door panel pulled inward toward the car to expose the area between the screw head and the metal it screws into. We did this using a regular hacksaw blade by itself, while wearing a glove, but you could also use a mini hacksaw or other small hacksaw that has a handle with a protruding blade. Some oil on the blade helps it cut. It took a while, but the saw eventually cut through the screw and we were able to remove the upper part of the panel and the lower (larger) part. Once the panel was off, it was fairly easy to remove the plastic cover off the latch mechanism, and then unlock it. We found that it was very rusty, but the spring was still intact. Our plan now is to wire brush it in place and lube it up w/ a special marine grade lubricant.
JC in Hawaii