Chiba -- Self-styled faith healer Koji Takahashi was sentenced in Chiba District Court on Tuesday to 15 years in prison in the smothering murder of a 66-year-old man whose mummified body was found in a Narita hotel in 1999.
In the Tuesday ruling, the court held that Takahashi had taken the ailing Shinichi Kobayashi from a hospital in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, in July 1999, and put him in a hotel in Narita. There, Kobayashi was left without water and medication, and was later found suffocated to death.
Kobayashi's eldest son, Kenji, had previously been handed a 30-month prison term, suspended for three years, for having abandoned his responsibility to protect his father, resulting in the father's death.
Before being indicted in the murder, Takahashi had said: "I saw the color of (Kobayashi's) skin change and sometimes heard a heartbeat. He was alive.''
Takahashi pleaded not guilty, and in his trial, told the court why he took Kobayashi out of the hospital.
"The intravenous drip was dangerous,'' Takahashi said. "I responded with my goodwill to his request to receive the `shakti pat' treatment (pats on the head). It was an appropriate medical act.''
Prosecutors had claimed Takahashi falsely presented himself as a medical practitioner to make money and establish himself as a leader of the self-enlightenment cult called Life Space. They also said Takahashi had been largely responsible for hastening the victim's demise.
The court accepted the prosecution assertions, and agreed that Takahashi had no basis for claiming to be qualified to practice medicine.
The evidence phase of the trial had finished in minutes, with no questioning of Takahashi from his defense lawyers, prosecutors or the bench. At the sentencing, Takahashi said little beyond complaining about the judge and muttering about unrelated matters.