Yakuza boss becomes 'first ever' to be sentenced to death in Japan 3 months ago

Yakuza boss becomes 'first ever' to be sentenced to death in Japan

Nomura Satoru ordered four assaults, one of which resulted in death

A court in Japan has sentenced a senior member of Japan's mafia, the yakuza, to death by hanging.

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Nomura Satoru was found guilty of ordering four violent attacks between 1998 and 2014, one of which resulted in a former boss of a fishing cooperative being killed.

The BBC reports that Nomura heads the Kudo-kai syndicate operating in south-western Japan, and was found guilty despite a lack of direct evidence against him. He is thought to be the first senior Yakuza member to be sentenced to death.

After his sentence was announced, the 74-year-old told the judge: "I asked for a fair decision... You will regret this for the rest of your life."

Nomura denied any involvement in the assaults and plans to appeal the decision.

Despite the lack of evidence against Nomura, prosecutors successfully argued that his command over the Yakuza meant he had ultimate responsibility for the attacks.

The judge said that the gang operated under such strict rules that it was unthinkable they could have been carried out without Nomura's authorisation.

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The judge described Nomura actions as extremely vicious. The four attacks over a 16-year period saw the former boss of a fishing co-operative shot and killed and three other people, including a nurse and a police officer, injured by shooting or stabbing.

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The Yakuza are not actually illegal in Japan, with each group having its own headquarters in full view of the public and police. But they are involved in almost every crime imaginable from drug-trafficking and prostitution to stock market manipulation and protection rackets.

Japan remains one of the few developed countries in the world that still has the death penalty, and there are currently more than 100 inmates on death row there.

This has attracted criticism from rights groups and the international community, but public support for capital punishment remains high in the country.