Japanese star escapes Taiwan jail term for assault

TAIPEI - A Taiwanese court on Thursday handed down a three-year suspended sentence to a Japanese-Taiwanese star for attacking a Taipei taxi driver in a case that has captivated celebrity watchers for months.

Singer-actress Makiyo received a lighter sentence than the four-year jail term prosecutors had sought as the Taipei district court found her guilty of common assault rather than aggravated assault, a court official said.

Her friend Takateru Tomoyori, a Japanese citizen, got a four-year suspended sentence for injuring the driver in the assault in Taipei on February 2.

The case had stirred a rare bout of anti-Japanese sentiment in Taiwan, which was a Japanese colony until 1945. Tokyo formally recognises Beijing over Taipei. Makiyo's lawyer told reporters outside the court that the entertainer respected the ruling and had yet to decide whether to appeal.

Makiyo, 27, who is known just by her first name, initially denied assaulting the driver and claimed that Tomoyori was defending her after the driver touched her chest during an argument.

However, public anger mounted after surveillance camera footage showed that Makiyo joined in the assault and seemed to have encouraged her friend to beat up the driver, who was hospitalised for several weeks for head trauma.

She later apologised and said she did not remember the details because she was drunk.

Makiyo, who was born to a Japanese father and a Taiwanese mother and holds Japanese citizenship, has not been able to work on the island since the authorities revoked her working permit in the wake of the case.

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