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Death penalty sought for man over 2014 deaths of 2 people buried alive

SAGA (Kyodo) -- Prosecutors demanded Tuesday the death penalty for a man who allegedly murdered a man and a woman by burying them alive in southwestern Japan in 2014 in an attempt to avoid paying back a debt.

Teruyoshi Oho, 69, is said to have suffocated Ra Si Chan, a 76-year-old South Korean national, and his associate Chie Matsushiro, 48, by burying them in their car in a 5 meter-deep hole in Saga city, according to the indictment. Oho's defense team reiterated that he is innocent.

Oho, a former president of a soil treatment company, had been urged by Ra to pay back some 40 million yen ($356,000) he had borrowed from him, the prosecutors said in their closing argument at the Saga District Court.

"It was a well-planned crime based on a strong intention to kill him," the prosecutors said, pointing to the fact that Oho had asked his employees to dig the hole before the alleged murders in August 2014. There is no special circumstance to avoid capital punishment, they added.

Oho has kept silent since his arrest in September 2015 and in his trial that began in June this year, while his defense lawyers pleaded not guilty on his behalf.

"The hole was for dumping industrial waste. His debt was not a valid reason for the killings while the cause of death is not known," they said.

The district court is scheduled to hand down its ruling on Aug. 6.

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