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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hearing for Japanese Captain Opens

ReutersFishing captain Noboru Sakashita listening as the hearing opened Monday in Yuzhno-Kurilsk, on Kunashiri Island.
VLADIVOSTOK -- Preliminary hearings opened in a far eastern courtroom Monday in the trial of a Japanese fishing boat captain detained over an incident in which one of his crew was killed by Russian coast guards, regional prosecutors said.

Prosecutors indicted Noboru Sakashita earlier this month for poaching and illegally crossing a state border in connection with the Aug. 16 incident, which strained ties between Moscow and Tokyo.

Officials of both countries claim Sakashita's boat was in their waters when Russian guards opened fire, killing a Japanese crab fisherman.

Russian officials said coast guards fired a warning shot after the boat failed to heed orders to halt, and that the shot accidentally killed the fisherman.

The Sakhalin regional prosecutor's press service said the hearings in the Yuzhno-Kurilsk District Court opened Monday behind closed doors. No official reason for that decision was given.

News agencies said defense lawyers were seeking to allow Sakashita to return to Japan during the proceedings, since he was not feeling well.

The incident took place in disputed waters near the southernmost of four islands claimed by both countries. Japan calls the island group the Northern Territories; Russia calls them the Kurils.