GUANGZHOU, China--A court here sentenced a 76-year-old former Japanese assembly member to life in prison on Nov. 8 at his drug-smuggling trial, which concluded more than five years ago.

Takuma Sakuragi from Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to smuggle more than 3 kilograms of stimulants into Japan from China. He denied the allegation.

His lawyers plan to appeal the ruling.

According to the ruling in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, Sakuragi in October 2013, when he was an assembly member, was carrying stimulants in a suitcase that he received from a man from Africa.

The African man was apparently the main culprit, but he could not be found.

In July 2014, prosecutors indicted Sakuragi. He denied the allegation, saying, “I didn’t know that stimulants were hidden (in the suitcase).”

However, in August 2014, prosecutors asked the court to sentence Sakuragi to at least 15 years in prison, give a life sentence or even the death sentence.

However, the court postponed the verdict for more than five years.

In China, drug-related crimes are severely punished. The death penalty can be imposed against anyone caught possessing 50 grams or more of stimulants with the intent to smuggle.

But under Chinese criminal law, the death penalty is, in principle, not applied to defendants who are at least 75 years old.