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Japan prosecutors indict man for ex-PM Shinzo Abe murder

Suspect Tetsuya Yamagami, 42, was indicted on murder charges and violating gun laws for alleged shooting of Shinzo Abe in July 2022.
Japanese prosecutors have indicted the man suspected of killing former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following confirmation that he was competent to stand trial, local media outlets have reported.

Public Prosecutors Office in Nara District indicted Tetsuya Yamagami, 42, on murder charges as well as for violating gun laws following the conclusion of a psychiatric assessment, the Yomiuri newspaper and Kyodo News agency reported on Friday.

Yamagami could face the death penalty if convicted.

The 42-year-old suspect had spent months undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, which ended earlier this week with his transfer to a police station in Nara city where Abe was fatally attacked in July 2022.

Following the crime that shocked the world, Yamagami had been arrested on the spot on July 8 after he allegedly shot Abe with a handmade gun while the former premier was giving a speech at an election campaign in the western city.

The suspect reportedly held a grudge against the Unification Church and he blamed Abe for promoting the religious organisation, which he said had impoverished his family, claiming the church had persuaded his mother to donate about 100 million yen ($776,000) to its cause.

Abe was Japan’s prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020. He stepped down from the position due to health issues, according to Kyodo News.

The Unification Church was founded in South Korea in 1954 and is famous for its mass weddings, relying on its followers in Japan as a key source of income.

The killing shed light on evidence to reveal deep and longstanding relations between the church and Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) legislators. The LDP has denied any organisational link to the church but has acknowledged that many legislators have ties to the religious group.

The approval rate for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government had fallen to record lows amid revelations about connections between the church and many LDP legislators.

Details also emerged about Yamagami’s childhood, including his mother’s alleged neglect of her children to carry out church activities, which built anger against the organisation and spurred sympathy for the murder suspect among some members of the Japanese public.

Donations of cash, clothing, food and books flooded into the Osaka detention centre where he was held during his psychiatric evaluation. An estimated 15,000 people also signed a petition calling for prosecutors to go easy on Yamagami, according to local media.

One of Yamagami’s lawyers, Masaaki Furukawa, told The Associated Press news agency on Thursday that his client was in good health during his psychiatric evaluation in Osaka when he was allowed to see only his sister and three lawyers.

Furukawa said the trial would involve a jury panel of citizens. Due to the complexity of the case, it would take at least several months before the hearing begins, he said.

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