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The head of the Kudo-kai crime syndicate, described by public safety officials as the most violent in Japan, was sentenced to death Tuesday over four cases of attacks on civilians, including a deadly one.

The Fukuoka District Court gave the death penalty to Satoru Nomura, the 74-year-old boss of the gang based in Kitakyushu, as sought by prosecutors, for murder and violations of the organized crime punishment law.

Fumio Tanoue, 65, a second-ranking member of the gang, was sentenced to an indefinite prison term. Prosecutors had demanded an indefinite prison term and a fine of ¥20 million.

"The criminal acts (of Nomura) were extremely vicious, and the decision of capital punishment is unavoidable," Presiding Judge Ben Adachi said.

Tuesday's ruling on Nomura, believed to be the first death penalty handed to the leader of a crime syndicate specified by law, may have an impact on police investigations into such organizations in the future.

The defense side of Nomura and Tanoue plans to appeal the rulings.

The defense had pleaded not guilty for both Nomura and Tanoue, saying that their involvement cannot be assumed from indirect evidence.

As there was no direct evidence linking Nomura and Tanoue with the four cases, the focus of the trial was on whether they should be recognized as having conspired with underlings who had already been convicted of actually conducting the crimes.

Adachi ruled that Nomura conspired with the perpetrator in the 1998 fatal shooting of a former head of a fisheries cooperative, saying he "directed the crime as the mastermind."

"The criminal acts of attacking and killing civilians for the acquisition of interests is extremely vicious," Adachi said.

People gather to hear a ruling on the head of the Kudo-kai crime syndicate at the Fukuoka District Court on Tuesday. | KYODO
People gather to hear a ruling on the head of the Kudo-kai crime syndicate at the Fukuoka District Court on Tuesday. | KYODO

For the other three cases, in which a former police inspector, a nurse and a dentist were shot or stabbed between 2012 and 2014, the judge said, "It is utterly unthinkable that gang members committed the crimes without permission."

"There is no room at all for extenuating circumstances in his motives," the judge also said, noting the four cases made local people fear greatly for their safety and had other significant negative social effects.

As he was taken out of the courtroom, Nomura said to the judge: "This is not fair at all. You'll regret it for the rest of your life."

Kudo-kai was designated in 2012 as a specified dangerous crime syndicate after members of the gang attacked many civilians and companies.

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