Mon, October 26, 2009
Entertainment > Celebrity

Trial starts for Japanese star Noriko Sakai

2009-10-26 09:07:38 GMT2009-10-26 17:07:38 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Japanese pop star Noriko Sakai (pictured here in September) has pleaded guilty to illegal drugs charges and prosecutors demanded 18 months' jail in a trial that has sparked intense public interest and frenzied media coverage. (AFP Photo)

Japanese pop star Noriko Sakai (pictured here in September) has pleaded guilty to illegal drugs charges and prosecutors demanded 18 months' jail in a trial that has sparked intense public interest and frenzied media coverage. (AFP Photo)

TOKYO, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- The trial of Noriko Sakai, the Japanese star who was arrested in August on drugs charges, began in Tokyo on Monday, with the pop star and actress pleading guilty to the possession and consumption of drugs.

Sakai was arrested in August for drug possession after her husband, Yuichi Takaso, was caught with stimulants a week earlier. When Takaso was arrested, Sakai disappeared for a week with her 10-year-old son, before eventually turning herself in at a Tokyo police station on Aug. 7.

Since her arrest, it has emerged that Sakai had been taking drugs for at least the last two years, and in his trial, which started last week, Takaso has claimed that his wife is a drug addict.

On Monday morning, more than 6,000 people gathered in Tokyo to try to get seats for the trial, despite the fact that only 20 people can fit in the courtroom. Most of those waiting said they were fans of the star.

Prosecutors have demanded that Sakai be jailed for 18 months for her crime, saying that her influence as a celebrity meant she should not be handled with leniency. A decision is expected in Sakai's trial by December.

Prosecutors in the case involving her husband, Takaso, asked that he be given a sentence of two years in prison for possession. His lawyers, however, argued that his sentence should be suspended as he has expressed remorse for his crime. Takaso is expected to be sentenced in November.

At the time of Sakai's arrest in August, another star, Manabu Oshio of Avex Entertainment, was arrested after he was found to have taken amphetamines and been with a hostess around the time that she died. Despite the death in the Manabu case, Japanese media has focused almost exclusively on the case of Sakai, who had appeared in an antidrugs campaign in the early 1990s.

Manabu also pleaded guilty n his trial, which opened on Friday. Prosecutors have also demanded Manabu be sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Sakai rose to fame in the late 80's as a pop singer and later branched out into acting. As well as been popular in Japan, she also has a significant fan base in other Asian countries, such as China and South Korea. The drugs scandal has seriously damaged her squeaky clean image, but many in Japan remain supportive of the actress.

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