Death penalty upheld for Japan crowd knifeman

A Japanese court upheld the death sentence imposed on a man who ploughed a truck into a crowd of shoppers before stabbing passers-by in a rampage that left seven people dead.

Tomohiro Kato, 29, had appealed against the penalty for the 2008 attack in Tokyo's bustling electronics district of Akihabara, which also left 10 people injured.

Kato, who used a double-edged knife in the attack, was sentenced to die last year after telling Tokyo District Court he was "fully responsible" for the bloody massacre on a busy June lunchtime.

However, his lawyers had appealed on the basis that Kato, who did not appear in court, was delusional.

Turning down the appeal, presiding judge Yoshinobu Iida told Tokyo High Court the original judgement was sound, Jiji Press reported.

"The defendant shows some sense of remorse, but there are no special circumstances that call for avoidance of capital punishment," he said, according to broadcaster NHK.

At the initial sentencing in March last year, presiding judge Hiroaki Murayama said the killing spree was "a brutal crime that did not indicate a shred of humanity on the part of the defendant," adding the death penalty was the only suitable punishment.

The noon-time rampage shocked Japan, which has a low violent crime rate, while throwing the spotlight on the online bullying that led up to the attacks in Akihabara, a centre for the manga comic and anime film subculture.

In one of the court hearings, Kato said he had committed his crime because he had been the target of online bullying.

"I wanted people to know that I seriously wanted to stop the harassment on the Internet bulletin board that I used," he said, according to Japanese media.

Japan had not seen such a deadly attack since seven years earlier to the day when a former mental patient stabbed to death eight children at an elementary school.

Japan is the only major industrialised democracy apart from the United States to execute criminals, usually for cases of multiple murder. More than 100 people are presently on death row.

International advocacy groups have denounced the Japanese system, under which death row inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.

The wait can become decades, with Japan's wheels of justice turning slowly.

However, the death penalty is widely supported among the Japanese public.