Cult leader loses appeal in murder case for failing to help sick man

Toyko, Japan - The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of a 66-year-old cult leader, finalizing his seven-year prison sentence for murdering a sick man by attempting to cure him through supernatural methods instead of giving him proper medical treatment, according to the ruling made available Tuesday.

This is the first time the top court has given a guilty verdict to someone for murder by not taking necessary measures to save a life.

The defendant Koji Takahashi "had a duty to give (the sick man) necessary medical treatment because there was no evidence that (the defendant) could save (the man's) life by himself," said Presiding Justice Ryoji Nakagawa of the top court's No. 2 Petty Bench.

The justice added that Takahashi "left the situation as it is, with the intention to kill as he felt that he doesn't care if (the man) dies."

"That can be murder by failing to take necessary actions," the justice said.

As Shinichi Kobayashi, 66, was being treated for a brain hemorrhage in a hospital in Hyogo Prefecture in 1999, Takahashi, the leader of the Life Space Group, instructed Kobayashi's family to move him to a hotel in Narita, Chiba Prefecture, on July 2 that year, according to the Tokyo High Court ruling in June 2003.

Takahashi then tried to treat Kobayashi by tapping his body as part of a supernatural cure but Kobayashi died the following day, suffocating from phlegm stuck in his throat, according to the ruling.

Kobayashi's mummified body was found in a room at the hotel on Nov. 11, 1999.

Defense attorneys have argued that Takahashi had no intention to kill as he was conducting traditional medicine.

The Chiba District Court sentenced Takahashi to 15 years in prison in February 2002, but the Tokyo High Court reduced the term to seven years as it ruled that Takahashi did not intend to cause death.