A former director of a TV program featuring conservative commentator Susumu Nishibe was given a suspended jail term on Friday for helping the 78-year-old kill himself in January.
The Tokyo District Court sentenced Tetsugaku Kubota, a 45-year-old former employee of a Tokyo Metropolitan Television Broadcasting Corp. unit, to two years in prison, suspended for three years, saying he conspired with another man to help Nishibe drown in a river.
Nishibe, who had often mentioned that he intended to kill himself, had hand impairments, making it difficult for him to take his own life unaided.
According to the ruling, Kubota drove Nishibe to the Tama River in Tokyo, placed him in a safety harness, tethered him to a nearby tree with a length of rope and helped him into the water on Jan. 21 in conspiracy with Tadashi Aoyama, 54, another acquaintance of the commentator.
While Kubota had denied assisting in the suicide during the trial, Judge Minoru Morishita said Nishibe had been asking the defendant to help him kill himself since last summer, and that Kubota had purchased the necessary equipment and surveyed the site for Nishibe beforehand. “The sorrow of the bereaved family is great,” the judge said.
But the court also suspended the sentence, citing Nishibe’s firm determination to commit suicide. At the time he was the moderator of a TV panel program on which Kubota worked as a director.
The broadcaster, which fired Kubota on Wednesday, said in a statement, “We take the ruling seriously and apologize to the viewers of our programs.”
In July, the same court also sentenced Aoyama, who had headed a study group set up by Nishibe, to two years in prison, suspended for three years.
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