Prosecutors sought an 11-year prison term Monday for the mother of a 5-year-old girl who died last year after allegedly being mistreated at home, the latest development in a case that caused such public outcry it prompted Japan to revise its child protection laws.
Yuri Funato, 27, is accused of causing her daughter's death from sepsis in March 2018. It is alleged Funato had not fed her daughter Yua adequately since around late January last year, resulting in the child developing pneumonia.
She also did not take her daughter to a hospital in late February last year when her condition seriously deteriorated after the abuse she allegedly had been subjected to by her 34-year-old stepfather, Yudai Funato, according to the indictment. The couple are now divorced.
"How much (Yua) would have regretted her future was taken away is immeasurable and this is extremely grave," prosecutors said.
The mother said her daughter's life "was more important than mine" and will "receive punishment seriously" for "having left Yua's mind and body in tatters."
The mother's defense team has argued she was powerless to stop her then-husband, as she was also the target of his psychological abuse, and are seeking a five-year prison term.
Yua's stepfather has been indicted on charges of assaulting his daughter, and negligence resulting in her death.
The mother has admitted parental neglect resulting in the girl's death, saying in a hearing at the Tokyo District Court that she had to obey her husband's orders to stop her daughter from being harmed.
"I was desperate to follow his orders like a robot," she said. "I can only keep apologizing to Yua."
The court will hand down its ruling on the mother on Sept 17. Yudai's trial begins on Oct 1.
Monday's trial was delayed by five hours until 3 p.m. due to Typhoon Faxai, which hit Tokyo and other eastern Japan areas on Sunday night and Monday morning.
According to prosecutors, Yua was forced by her stepfather to write her weight and the time of her meals in a notebook from Feb 8 to Feb 27 last year after she moved to Tokyo from Kagawa Prefecture in western Japan.
In the notebook, she also wrote messages such as "Please forgive me," according to the prosecutors.
Yua's death on March 2, 2018, in Tokyo's Meguro Ward, attracted nationwide attention and prompted Japan to enact revised laws in June this year, banning parents and other guardians from physically punishing children and strengthening the ability of child welfare centers to intervene in a case when abuse is suspected.© KYODO