SYDNEY – Nine Japanese students have been ordered to stand trial for murder before the New Zealand High Court over the beating death of a classmate at an Auckland school, the Waitakere District Court said Monday.
Nozomu Shinozaki, a 22-year-old from Yokohama, was assaulted for hours before being found dead at Columbus Academy in suburban West Harbor on Feb. 26.
The students, aged between 17 and 26, pleaded not guilty to three charges each of kidnapping, assault and murder at the end of a two-week deposition hearing Friday in a lower district court, a court registrar told Kyodo News.
A request by the students’ lawyer, John Haigh, for their bail conditions to be relaxed was denied by justices Don Chapman and Joan Mihaere, she said. They have been confined to an academy house under 24-hour curfew since Shinozaki’s death.
The director of the now-closed performing arts school for troubled Japanese youth, Soon Keuk Kim, also known as Katsuo Kanamori, has been charged with attempting to obstruct justice after allegedly telling the students not to cooperate with police.
The trial before the High Court in Auckland is not expected to begin before March, the New Zealand Press Association reported.
Exhibits, including a broom, a mop, a large teapot, a pool cue and clothing, were bought into the court during the hearing.
The court was told that Shinozaki, who arrived in New Zealand in 1998, suffered from autism and after little supervision at the academy, engaged in petty theft and minor arson.
The New Zealand government launched a multiagency inquiry following Shinozaki’s death.