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Latest update : 2008-05-26

The rare sentence was passed by a Japanese court for the shooting of Nagasaki's mayor last April. The assassination caused Japan, a country with one of the world's lowest crime rates, to stiffen its gun laws.

A Japanese court on Monday sentenced a gangster to death by hanging for gunning down the mayor of Nagasaki in a rare assassination that led the country to tighten controls on guns.
Tetsuya Shiroo, 60, who was associated with Japan's largest criminal syndicate, was convicted of shooting Mayor Iccho Ito as he campaigned for re-election in April last year.
"This was a crime that shook the democratic system from its root and was equivalent to denying the electoral process," Judge Yoshimichi Matsuo said in the southwestern city, as quoted by Jiji Press.
Shiroo's "crime was premeditated with a strong intention of murder. Shiroo made the decision to assassinate him immediately after he expressed his candidacy," Matsuo said.
The judge said Shiroo blamed his personal financial problems on the mayor's administration and decided to "flaunt his power" by killing him.
Shiroo had previously had a dispute with the city authorities over compensation for a traffic accident.
Shiroo, wearing a pale pink shirt underneath a suit, stood and showed no emotion as the judge read the verdict, Jiji Press said.
He said during the trial that he was ready to be hanged.
"I would like to sincerely receive the ultimate punishment," he had said.
A court official confirmed to AFP that the death sentence was handed down.
Ito, 61, was an outspoken pacifist born just weeks after Nagasaki's best-known event -- the world's second and last atomic attack.
His assassination led Japan, which already had strict gun control laws, to raise punishments for illegal possession of firearms.
More than 1,130 people rushed to the courthouse Monday to grab tickets for only 39 seats for the session, media reported.
Japan is the only major industrial nation other than the United States to administer capital punishment, but it is rare for courts to give a death sentence to people who have killed only one person.
Prosecutors called for the death penalty, saying that the assassination was "an atrocious act, an act of terrorism aimed at an election."
Shiroo "planned to prevent a re-election and obstructed the right to have an election in a way that has no precedent in the criminal history of our country," said a closing statement read out by a prosecutor.
Japan has one of the world's lowest crime rates. Most gun violence is linked to gangs, which have vast interests in nightlife and other underworld businesses.
The country has seen several attacks on politicians in recent years. In 2002, an ultra-nationalist stabbed to death Koki Ishii, an opposition lawmaker known for his aggressive investigations of corruption.
In Nagasaki, Shiroo had grievances with the city authorities after his vehicle was damaged at a construction site five years ago. He had reportedly gone more than 30 times to a city office seeking up to 2.7 million yen (26,150 dollars) in compensation.

Date created : 2008-05-26