Japanese prosecutors formally charged the suspect in the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with murder, sending him to stand trial, a court said Friday.
Tetsuya Yamagami was arrested immediately after allegedly shooting Abe with a homemade gun as the former leader was making a campaign speech on July 8 outside a train station in Nara in western Japan. Yamagami then underwent a nearly six-month mental evaluation prosecutors said showed he’s fit to stand trial.
Yamagami was also charged with violating a gun control law, according to the Nara District Court.
Police have said Yamagami told them he killed Abe, one of Japan’s most influential and divisive politicians, because of Abe’s apparent links to a religious group that he hated. In his statements and in social media postings attributed to him, Yamagami said he developed a grudge because his mother had made massive donations to the Unification Church that bankrupted his family and ruined his life.
One of his lawyers, Masaaki Furukawa, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Yamagami will have to take responsibility for the serious consequences of his alleged actions and that his defence lawyers will do their best to reduce his sentence.
Japanese law allows capital punishment for murder, but experts say the death penalty usually is handed down for multiple killings and Yamagami could get life in prison if convicted.
No date is set for his trial, which is expected to have a panel of civil jurors in addition to the usual bench judges – as in murder cases and other serious criminal trials in Japan. Due to the complexity of the case, it would take months before his trial begins, Furukawa said.
Police are also reportedly considering adding several allegations, including producing weapons, violating explosives control law and causing damage to buildings.
Some Japanese have expressed sympathy for Yamagami, especially those who also suffered as children of followers of the South Korea-based Unification Church, which is known for pressuring adherents into making big donations and is considered a cult in Japan.
Thousands of people have signed a petition requesting leniency for Yamagami, and others havesent care packages to his relatives or the detention center. (CBS)