Sumo master jailed over killing
Former sumo trainer imprisoned for role in death of young wrestler.
Last Modified: 29 May 2009 10:54 GMT

The father  of the deceased 17-year-old wrestler talks to the media [AFP]
A former sumo wrestling trainer has been sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the fatal beating of a young wrestler during training.

Junichi Yamamoto, aged 59, was convicted on charges of assault leading to death by the Nagoya District Court in Japan.

Yamamoto had subsequently filed an appeal to a high court, according to officials.

The district court found Yamamoto - who went by the name Tokitsukaze when he was master of sumo stable where wrestlers train and live - ordered three wrestlers, in the name of practice, to beat 17-year-old Tokitaizan, hitting him with beer bottles, a baseball bat and hosing him with cold water.

Tokitaizan, whose real name was Takashi Saito, collapsed after practice and died June 2007.

An autopsy showed bruises and injuries that prosecutors said showed his ordeal was not training.


The court ruled the trainer, while not directly taking part in the beating, instructed three wrestlers to "punish'' Saito, according to Kyodo News agency.

Judge Masaharu Ashizawa said Yamamoto had absolute power over his wrestlers.

Yamamoto arrives at the Nagoya District Court - the case has stunned Japan [AFP]
In a separate trial, the court in December convicted the three wrestlers, all in their 20s, of charges of assault resulting in death.

They were sentenced to suspended prison terms.

Yamamoto's defence had also sought a suspended sentence, arguing that the three wrestlers had acted on their own in sparring during practice, according to Kyodo.

The incident stunned Japan, tarnishing the image of the traditional sport at a time when it is losing appeal among younger Japanese.

Sumo Association chairman Akihide Musashigawa declined comment on the ruling, but he said he has warned trainers and wrestlers "to prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy.''

Sumo has been hit by a spate of scandals, including the arrests of wrestlers on suspicion of marijuana possession, as well as allegations in the Japanese media that bouts were fixed.

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