OSAKA — The Osaka High Court on Thursday upheld a lower court-imposed death sentence against a man convicted of murdering five people from Osaka Prefecture in 1992 and 1993.

Presiding Judge Hiromu Kurihara rejected the appeal of Yoshinori Ueda, 46, who was sentenced to death in March 1998 by the Osaka District Court on charges of murder and abandoning bodies.

In his appeal, Ueda maintained that he is totally innocent, stressing among other things that he had earlier confessed to killing the five because he had been “forced by police, who threatened violence.”

Ueda killed acquaintance Hiroshi Sato, 23, in June 1992 in a car by injecting him with muscle relaxant obtained from a veterinarian, the court said. He then buried Sato’s body in farmland in Shiojiri, Nagano Prefecture.

Between July 1992 and October 1993, Ueda, using a similar method, killed four dog lovers — Sanpei Fujiwara, 33, Ko Kashiwai, 20, Sachiko Takahashi, 47, and Nobuko Shiji, 47 — because of financial disputes over the expansion of a dog-breeding field, the court said. Their bodies were also buried in Shiojiri.

A psychological evaluation of Ueda showed there was “no problem in the (defendant’s) mental competency.” The high court consented to conducting the evaluation at the request of the defense team. The lower court had earlier dismissed it as “unnecessary.”

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