Shinzo Abe assassination: Prosecutors formally press murder charges against attacker

WorldShinzo Abe assassination: Prosecutors formally press murder charges against attacker
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TOKYO, Jan 13 (AP) Japanese prosecutors have formally charged a suspect in the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with murder, and a court said Friday that preparations are being made to go to trial in the case.

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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’.

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According to the police, Yamagami said his mother had donated heavily to the ‘Unification Church’, bankrupting his family and ruining his life. Yamagami’s lawyer Masaaki Furukawa told The Associated Press on Thursday that Yamagami must take responsibility for the serious consequences of his alleged actions and that defense lawyers 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.

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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. On the indictment against Yamagami, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, “We must take very seriously the heinous act of violence that led to the death of former Prime Minister Abe.”

He said Japan would ensure the security of dignitaries and leaders during the summit of the Group of Seven countries and during nationwide local elections. 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 church controversy and Abe’s controversial funeral.

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