13 March 2024 :

A Japanese high court on March 12, 2024 overturned a lower court ruling sentencing the head of the Kudokai crime syndicate to death over four cases of attacks on ordinary citizens.
The Fukuoka High Court handed down a life sentence for 77-year-old Satoru Nomura, who heads the Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture-based gang.
Meanwhile, the court upheld the Fukuoka District Court's ruling of life imprisonment for Fumio Tanoue, 67, the gang's second-in-command.
The district court had found Nomura to be the mastermind behind all four attacks.
The high court, however, found him not guilty of his alleged collaboration in the fatal shooting of a former head of a fisheries cooperative in 1998. Presiding Judge Futoshi Ichikawa said he "cannot recognize Nomura's complicity through logical or empirical reasoning."
For the other three attacks, the high court recognized that both Nomura and Tanoue exerted significant decision-making power, concluding that the two conspired with other Kudokai members in the attacks.
The defense side claimed that Nomura was completely innocent.
Tanoue admitted to instructing Kudokai members to attack a nurse and a dentist but denied any intent to kill.
Prosecutors said there was nothing unreasonable with the lower court ruling, which concluded that the two had ordered the attacks, given that Nomura is at the very top of Kudokai.
After pleading not guilty at the lower court, Tanoue reversed his claim during the higher court hearing, saying that he alone instructed the two attacks. On this, the prosecutors said that his new statements cannot be trusted because he is likely to have changed his remarks to protect Nomura.
Nomura and Tanoue allegedly conspired with other Kudokai members to shoot and kill the former fisheries cooperative chief, then 70, in February 1998, as well as attack a former police chief inspector, the nurse and the dentist between 2012 and 2014.
When the district court handed down the death sentence in 2021, Nomura told the judge, "You'll regret the decision for the rest of your life."
Before delivering the main text of the high court's verdict on March 12, Ichikawa warned that Nomura might be ordered to leave the courtroom if he made any inappropriate remarks.
Nomura remained expressionless and stared directly at Ichikawa when the judge declared that the death sentence had been overturned.
In 2012, the Kudokai became the first gang to be designated as a specified dangerous crime syndicate in Japan, following a string of attacks on citizens and companies.
The Fukuoka Prefectural Police, meanwhile, pledged to be relentless in taking measures to eradicate the group, department head Tsuyoshi Iwashita said.


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