Suspected of killing Shinzo Abe to face murder charges, lawyer says

Suspected of killing Shinzo Abe to face murder charges, lawyer says

Suspected of killing Shinzo Abe to face murder charges, lawyer says

TOKYO – Japanese prosecutors are to formally charge the suspected killer of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with murder on Friday, his lawyer said.

Tetsuya Yamagami was arrested immediately after he allegedly shot Abe with a handmade gun while the former leader was giving a speech in July outside a railway station in Nara, western Japan. Later that month, Yamagami was sent to an Osaka detention center and subjected to a five-month mental evaluation, which ended on Tuesday.

Yamagami is now back in Nara police custody after being reportedly found fit to stand trial.

One of his lawyers, Masaaki Furukawa, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he expects prosecutors to charge Yamagami with murder and gun control violations.

He said that given the complexity of the case, it would be several months before his trial began.

President Obama met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Hawaii
Police say Yamagami told them he killed Abe, one of Japan’s most influential and divisive politicians, because of Abe’s apparent ties to a religious group he hated.File by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Furukawa said he and two other lawyers took turns visiting Yamagami in custody every 10 to 12 days between his examination by psychiatric experts. His guests were limited to his lawyers and sister, he said.

Furukawa said that Yamagami was in good health in custody. He said he could not release the details of their conversations until he had seen what evidence prosecutors would present to the court in their indictment.

Police say Yamagami told them he killed Abe, one of Japan’s most influential and divisive politicians, because of Abe’s apparent ties to a religious group he hated. In his statements and social media posts attributed to him, Yamagami said that he held a grudge because his mother made huge donations to the Unification Church, which bankrupted his family and ruined his life.

“This is an extremely serious matter, but someone has to defend it,” Furukawa said. “Of course he will have to take criminal responsibility for the serious consequences he caused by allegedly firing a gun to take the life of a politician and we are tasked with doing everything we can to mitigate his punishment.”

Yamagami’s father, a director of a company founded by the suspect’s grandfather, committed suicide when Yamagami was 4 years old. After his mother joined the church, she began making large donations that bankrupted the family and shattered Yamagami’s hopes of going to college. His brother later committed suicide. After three years in the Navy, Yamagami was most recently a factory worker.

Some Japanese people expressed sympathy for Yamagami, especially those who also suffered as children of followers of the South Korean-based Unification Church, which is known to pressure followers to make large donations and is considered a cult in Japan.

Thousands of people signed a petition seeking leniency for Yamagami, and others sent care packages to his relatives or detention.

The investigation into the case has revealed years of close links between Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the church, since Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, helped the church take root in Japan in the 1960s for communist reasons.

Incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s popularity has declined due to his handling of church controversies and his insistence on Abe’s rare, controversial state funeral.

In a September 2021 video message, Abe praised the Unification Church’s work for peace on the Korean Peninsula and its focus on traditional family values.

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