A high court upheld on Thursday a sentence of 15 years in prison given to a woman for manipulating a fellow mother to starve her 5-year-old son to death in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Fukuoka in 2020.

In rejecting the appeal by the defendant Emiko Akahori, 50, the Fukuoka High Court supported a lower court ruling that said she psychologically controlled her friend, Rie Ikari, 41, and the two conspired to severely reduce Ikari's son's meals from around August 2019.

By late March 2020, the boy, Shojiro, became severely malnourished and due to insufficient feeding, starved to death on April 18 that year.

Akahori's defense team had continued to plead not guilty and also said the 15-year sentence was too heavy and unjust compared to Ikari, who was sentenced to five years in prison for negligence as a guardian.

According to the Fukuoka District Court ruling, the two women became acquainted in 2016 through their children. Akahori told various lies that made Ikari cut ties with people around her, including that her husband was cheating on her. Ikari later got divorced.

Akahori was also found guilty of defrauding or stealing a total of around 1.98 million yen ($14,000) from Ikari, for purposes such as investigating the alleged cheating.

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