Four men charged in connection with the fatal beating of a 31-year-old bar owner in a Roppongi nightclub last September pleaded guilty Tuesday in their Tokyo District Court trial.
Trials of others allegedly involved in the slaying, including former members of Kanto Rengo, a now-defunct biker gang based in the Kanto region, are scheduled to follow.
Rikiya Agarie, 23, Akira Iwabuchi, 27, Seiya Watanabe, 19, and Yuji Kaneshiro, 30, admitted to either driving the other attackers to the crime scene or standing watch. Agarie is the only one of the four ever to have belonged to Kanto Rengo, prosecutors said.
The men were charged with unlawful assembly with weapons, namely metal bats.
Masked men armed with metal bats beat bar owner Ryosuke Fujimoto to death last September while he was dining with a friend.
Separate trials are planned for Taichi Ishimoto, a former leader of Kanto Rengo, and other ex-members, prosecutors said. The defendants allegedly mistook Fujimoto for a member of a group in conflict with Kanto Rengo.
But during the first court session Tuesday, the defendants said they were unaware of any plan to kill someone. Kaneshiro said others at the scene told him to go into the bar and see if their target was there.
“I was only asked to spot a ‘tanned, sturdy man with an injury on his leg,’ ” Kaneshiro said. “I didn’t know who he was. I had a bad feeling this might lead to some kind of bloodshed, but I didn’t know any better.”
In a statement read out by prosecutors Tuesday, a relative of Fujimoto, who was not named, denounced all those involved in the murder: “What they did is totally beyond what normal human beings are capable of doing. If possible, I would like to avenge him by taking their life myself, but I know the law doesn’t allow me to do that, so I wish the most severe punishment possible for them.”