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OSAKA — A couple accused of fatally abusing their 1-year-old daughter denied at their first trial hearing Monday at the Osaka District Court that they had intended to kill her.

Tomokazu Nago, a 30-year-old truck driver of Nishi Ward, Kobe, and his wife, Yuri, 25, face murder charges. It is rare for such charges to be pressed in cases of child abuse.

Their defense counsel claimed they should be charged with abandoning parental responsibility resulting in death. Prosecutors said the couple started demonstrating violent behavior toward Manami several months after her birth and stopped feeding her.

The defendants premeditated the crime, thinking no evidence would turn up if their baby died of starvation, the prosecutors said. The couple told doctors immediately after her death that Manami had been anorexic.

The couple decided to kill her in late October 1995 because of their daughter’s abnormal growth, and fed her only snacks, according to the prosecution. She died on Jan. 4, 1996, of malnutrition.

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