• Kyodo

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The Osaka High Court on Tuesday upheld a life sentence for a mob figure convicted of fatally shooting one man and wounding two others.

The court effectively rejected appeals from both Yutaro Uemura, 45, who claimed he was innocent, and prosecutors, who wanted the death penalty.

Uemura was convicted of gunning down a 41-year-old crane operator in March 1999 over a festering disagreement.

Between March and April that year, Uemura, formerly a member of an underworld group affiliated with Yamaguchi-gumi, also fired shots at the owners of a dry cleaner, a watch shop and a barber shop in Konohana Ward, Osaka, seriously wounding the proprietors of the dry cleaning establishment and the barber shop.

Prosecutors argued that Uemura’s crimes terrified the community and merited capital punishment.

Uemura said in his first trial session before the Osaka District Court that he was not involved in the crimes, and then afterward remained silent. The district court sentenced Uemura in May 2002 to life in prison.

In handing down Tuesday’s ruling, presiding Judge Kazuhisa Shirai said testimony given by another former gangster who said he had helped Uemura while he was on the run after the shootings.

But at the same time, he ruled that Uemura’s actions were not extreme enough to merit the death penalty.