Tokyo - A Japanese court on Tuesday commuted a death sentence to life in prison for a gangster who shot dead the mayor of the city of Nagasaki two years ago, a court official said.
Tetsuya Shiroo, 62, who was associated with Japan's largest criminal syndicate, shot dead then mayor Iccho Ito as he campaigned for re-election in April 2007, and he was sentenced to death in May 2008.
"We should judge cautiously when it comes to the death penalty," Fukuoka High Court chief judge Shoichi Matsuo was quoted as saying by public broadcaster NHK at an appeals hearing.
The judge pointed out that Shiroo had killed one person, while Japan usually reserves the death penalty for multiple murderers.
Matsuo said in his judgement that the crime had threatened democracy, and that it was motivated by Shiroo's personal grudge against the administration in the southwestern city.
Shiroo reportedly blamed his financial problems on the city, which had refused to grant loans to a construction company linked to him.
Ito was a vocal pacifist born in 1945, just weeks after the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by American atomic bombs in attacks that forced Japan's World War II surrender.
Japan is the only democratic, highly-developed country other than the United States to administer capital punishment.