Life term upheld for killing of Vietnamese girl

A high court in Japan has upheld a life sentence for a man convicted of killing a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl in Chiba Prefecture in 2017.

The Tokyo High Court gave its ruling on Tuesday, rejecting the defense counsel's request for acquittal of 49-year-old Shibuya Yasumasa.

Shibuya was charged with killing Le Thi Nhat Linh after abducting her on her way to school in Matsudo City. Her body was later found in a nearby city. He served as head of the parental group at the girl's school at the time of the murder.

The Chiba District Court sentenced Shibuya to life in prison in 2018. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers appealed the ruling.

In the high court trial, prosecutors again demanded the death penalty.

But Shibuya's lawyers argued that police collected cigarette butts without a search warrant to obtain his DNA samples, which they said was illegal. They said the defendant did not commit the crime.

Presiding judge Hiraki Masahiro criticized as illegal the way investigators obtained the evidence.

But he acknowledged there was great need to obtain DNA samples as the crime was serious and had to be solved quickly. He said there was no significant infringement of rights.

The judge rejected prosecutors' demand for the death penalty, saying there was "reasonable doubt" the crime was premeditated. He upheld the life sentence ruling of the lower court.

The girl's parents spoke at a news conference after the ruling.

The father, Le Anh Hao, said the ruling upholding the life sentence caused him great pain. He said he asked prosecutors to appeal the decision.