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Sumo trainer jailed over killing

29 May 09 09:11 GMT

A former leading sumo coach has been jailed for six years for his role in the fatal beating of a young wrestler in an attack that shocked Japan.

Prosecutors said Junichi Yamamoto, known as Tokitsukaze, ordered three wrestlers to "punish" 17-year-old Takashi Saito for trying to run away.

An autopsy later found that the attack - with beer bottles and baseball bats - had contributed to the man's death.

Yamamoto, 59, has filed an appeal against the sentence, officials said.

The Nagoya District Court found that although the trainer did not directly take part in the beating, he had instructed the three wrestlers to carry it out during a training session.

The judge said Yamamoto had "overwhelming authority" over his apprentices.

Mr Saito collapsed and died in June 2007 after being subjected to excessive sparring sessions before a tournament in Nagoya.

An inquest found that bruises and injuries he sustained were not in keeping with those expected from a usual training routine.

In a separate trial last year, the three senior wrestlers, all in their 20s, were convicted of assault resulting in death.

They were given suspended prison sentences as the judge said they had only followed their coach's instructions and the traditions of the sport.

Sumo wrestling is Japan's national sport and those involved are widely seen as role models, and much respected for their honour and humility.

Young sumo wrestlers train in tightly-knit "stables" where they eat, sleep and practise together and are sometimes subjected to harsh treatment in the belief that it will toughen them up.

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