OSAKA — The Osaka High Court on Wednesday sentenced a 28-year-old man to life imprisonment for the May 1997 abduction and murder of a teenage girl from Nara Prefecture, dismissing an 18-year prison term handed down by a lower court.

Masato Okazaki received the sentence, which was in line with prosecutors’ demand for life imprisonment, for kidnapping and murdering his acquaintance, Michiyo Urakubo, 13, a second-year junior high school student, in Tsukigase in the prefecture on May 4, 1997.

Presiding Judge Motoyasu Kawakami rejected Okazaki’s claim that discrimination against him by the local community had been the motive for the crime, and said the court doubts that he is sincerely repentant.

In October 1998, the Nara District Court handed Okazaki an 18-year prison term, saying the crime was not premeditated and that the accused was repentant. He had pleaded guilty.

Prosecutors lodged an appeal, claiming the sentence was too lenient.

According to Wednesday’s ruling, Okazaki hit Urakubo with his car while she was walking along a road in Tsukigase and then forced her into the back seat.

He then took Urakubo to a thicket in Ueno, Mie Prefecture, and strangled her with vinyl tape and smashed her head with a stone, the court said.

Abduction guilty plea

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) A 57-year-old man pleaded guilty Wednesday to abducting a 6-year-old girl in the town of Tsuyazaki, Fukuoka Prefecture, and then abandoning her two days later.

Tadashi Kubo entered his plea at the first hearing of his trial at the Fukuoka District Court.

According to the indictment, Kubo lured Saori Tokunaga, a first-year student at Tsuyazaki Elementary School, away from her friends at around 3 p.m. on April 6 in the town in Fukuoka Prefecture.

He gave her rides on a bicycle and in a baby pram until the night of April 8 and then left her on a mountainside 27 km away from Kitakyushu.

The girl walked down the mountain by herself on the morning of April 9.