Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guilty pleas in Sumo Hazing Death: Tokitaizan

Story Link: Three sumo wrestlers indicted for the hazing of a 17-year-old stablemate named Tokitaizan who later died from multiple-trauma shock pleaded guilty

Three Japanese sumo wrestlers were handed suspended jail sentences on Thursday for beating up a 17-year-old trainee who later died, a court said, in a case that has sparked concern over training practices in the ancient sport.

The wrestlers, all in their 20s, had been accused of beating the trainee with a metal bat during sparring practice last year, a day after clobbering him for hours with a beer bottle and a wooden stick, local media reported.

A spokesman for the Nagoya District Court in central Japan told Reuters that two of the wrestlers were sentenced to three years in prison and the third was handed a sentence of two and a half years. All the sentences were suspended for five years.

"I am not satisfied, but I accept the court's decision," Masato Saito, the trainee's father, told a group of reporters outside the courtroom.

He said he wanted the sumo gym leader, or stablemaster, to be held accountable. The stablemaster is facing a separate trial.

The trainee's death set off a media frenzy about harsh training practices in the closed, males-only sport, which historians say dates back 2,000 years and involves wrestlers wearing only loincloths fighting in a rope-lined dirt ring.

The sport retains many Shinto religious overtones, including carefully choreographed ring-entering rituals which play almost as big a role as the bouts, which sometimes last only seconds. 

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