Tokyo — Friday, prosecutors in Japan formally accused the suspect in the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with murder and sent him to trial.
Tetsuya Yamagami was promptly detained after reportedly shooting Abe with a handmade gun while the former leader was delivering a campaign address at a train station in Nara, western Japan, on July 8. Prosecutors asserted that a nearly six-month evaluation of Yamagami’s mental state revealed that he is competent to stand trial.
According to the Nara District Court, Yamagami was also charged with breaching a firearms law.
Tetsuya Yamagami is captured on July 8, 2022, at the scene of gunfire in Nara Prefecture, western Japan. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a polarizing arch-conservative and one of his country’s most prominent and important individuals, reportedly died after being shot at a campaign address. Katsuhiko Hirano / The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP
Yamagami allegedly informed police that he murdered Abe, one of Japan’s most influential and polarizing politicians, due to Abe’s apparent ties to a religious sect he despised. Yamagami said in his speeches and social media posts that he acquired a resentment since his mother’s enormous payments to the Unification Church bankrupted his family and destroyed his life.
Thursday, one of his attorneys, Masaaki Furukawa, told The Associated Press that Yamagami will be held accountable for the severe repercussions of his alleged acts and that his defense attorneys will do their best to lower his sentence.
In accordance with Japanese law, murder is punishable by death; but, according to experts, the death penalty is often imposed for many murders, and Yamagami could receive a life sentence if convicted.
As with murder cases and other serious criminal trials in Japan, no date has been set for his trial, which is expected to include civil jurors in addition to the customary bench judges. Furukawa stated that due to the complexity of the issue, it would be months before his trial started.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech for his party member candidate in the House of Councillors Election near Yamato Saidaiji Station in Nara Prefecture on July 8, 2022, mere moments before he is shot and killed. The Yomiuri Shimbun Images from AP
According to reports, police are also contemplating the addition of many charges, including weapon production, violation of explosives control law, and property damage.
Some Japanese have expressed compassion with Yamagami, particularly those who similarly suffered as children of members of the Unification Church, which is based in South Korea and is infamous for forcing its members to make large donations and is regarded as a cult in Japan.
Others have sent care parcels to Yamagami’s family or the jail center.
The investigation into the case has revealed years of cozy ties between Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the church, dating back to the 1960s, when Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, helped the church establish itself in Japan due to shared conservative and anti-communist interests.
The popularity of the current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has plummeted due to his handling of the church matter and his insistence on arranging a rare and controversial state funeral for Abe.
To eliminate ministers with church ties, Kishida reshuffled his Cabinet in August, but a September party inquiry revealed that nearly half of its 400 national MPs had church affiliations.
Kishida, who has stated that he has no ties to the church, has pledged that his party lawmakers will sever ties with the organization, and his government has launched a probe that might result in the institution’s religious designation being revoked.
In addition, the government passed a law intended to aid victims of the church’s fundraising activities, despite the fact that experts feel the measure is insufficient.