Lawyer: Shinzo Abe murder suspect faces murder charges

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TOKYO (TBEN) — Japanese prosecutors are expected to formally charge the suspect in the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with murder on Friday, his lawyer said.

Tetsuya Yamagami was immediately arrested after allegedly shooting Abe with a handmade pistol when the former leader gave a campaign speech outside a train station in western Japan’s Nara in July. Later that month, Yamagami was sent to an Osaka detention center and underwent a five-month mental evaluation, which ended on Tuesday.

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

One of his lawyers, Masaaki Furukawa, told The The Bharat Express News on Thursday that he expects prosecutors to charge Yamagami with murder and gun law violations.

Given the complexity of the case, it will be months before his trial begins, he said.

Furukawa said he and two other lawyers visited Yamagami at the detention center every 10-12 days in between his examination by psychiatric experts. His visitors were limited to his lawyers and sister, he said.

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Furukawa said Yamagami was in good health at the detention center. He said he could not release the details of their conversations until he saw what evidence the prosecutors are submitting to the court in their indictment.

According to the police, Yamagami told them that 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 in social media posts attributed to him, Yamagami said he held a grudge because his mother had made huge donations to the Unification Church, which had bankrupted his family and ruined his life.

Yamagami’s father, an executive 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 a three-year stint in the Navy, Yamagami was last a factory worker.

Thousands of people have signed a petition asking for leniency for Yamagami, and others have sent care packages to his family or the detention center.

The investigation into the matter has led to revelations of years of cozy ties 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 because of shared interests in conservative and anti-Christian-communist causes.

Current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s popularity has plummeted for his handling of the Church controversy and his insistence on holding a rare, controversial state funeral for Abe.

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