Tokyo. Japanese prosecutors have formally charged a suspect in the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with murder. The matter is now being prepared for hearing. The court gave this information on Friday. Abe was allegedly shot with a country-made gun by Tetsuya Yamagami during an election rally in July outside a railway station in Nara, eastern Japan. Yamagami was arrested soon after the incident.
He was kept at the Osaka Detention Center for about six months to determine his mental state. He was handed over to the police in Nara on Tuesday. Yamagami has also been charged with violating a gun control law, according to the Nara District Court. According to police, during interrogation Yamagami told that he killed Abe because of his apparent ties to a religious organization that he hated. In some media reports, this organization has been identified as the ‘Unification Church’. According to the police, Yamagami said his mother had donated heavily to the ‘Unification Church’, bankrupting his family and ruining his life.
One of his lawyers, Masaaki Furukawa, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Yamagami must own up to the dire consequences of his alleged actions and that his defense attorneys will do their best to reduce his sentence. Japanese law allows for the death penalty for murder. However, experts say the death penalty is usually given to those who commit multiple murders, and Yamagami could face life in prison if convicted. No date has yet been set for the start of the trial against Yamagami.
The trial bench is expected to consist of judges dealing with civil matters in addition to judges of the general bench, as is common in Japan for murder cases and other serious criminal trials. Furukawa said that given the complexity of the case, it could take several months for the trial to begin.
The police are said to be considering adding several other charges, including manufacture of weapons, violation of the Explosives Control Act and damage to buildings. Many people have expressed sympathy for Yamagami and signed a petition requesting leniency towards him. Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s popularity has plummeted over his handling of the cathedral controversy and a rare and controversial funeral for Abe.
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