1st pretrial procedure for Abe shooter held amid tight security

1st pretrial procedure for Abe shooter held amid tight security

File Photo

Tokyo, The Gulf Observer: A Japanese court held its first meeting with lawyers and prosecutors to prepare for the trial of the suspected murderer of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid tightened security, after the delivery of a suspicious package led to the cancellation of the original June proceedings.

The defendant, Tetsuya Yamagami, 43, did not attend the closed-door pretrial procedure at the Nara District Court in western Japan. His first trial hearing is expected to be held next year at the earliest, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The pretrial proceedings allow court officials, prosecutors and lawyers to narrow down issues, review evidence and set the trial’s schedule. Friday’s meeting ended after about 20 minutes, according to Yamagami’s defense team.

Yamagami stands accused of fatally shooting Abe with a handmade firearm during an election stump speech in Nara in July last year. The assassination of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister shocked a nation where gun violence is rare.

According to his lawyers, Yamagami was planning to attend the pretrial procedure slated for June 12, but the furor over the suspicious package made him “think hard” about whether he should make an appearance on Friday.

Metal detectors were used during security checks at the Nara District Court on Friday.

On June 12, a cardboard box delivered to the court set off a metal detector alarm, which led to the building being cleared and the preparations for the trial that were planned for the day being canceled.

The box was later found to have only contained paper for a petition seeking leniency for Yamagami.

Yamagami has attracted sympathy among some of the public, who see him as a person whose life was ruined as one of the many victims of the Unification Church, formally called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification and known for its aggressive fundraising tactics.

Yamagami’s mother, who was a follower of the church, is believed to have made donations totaling 100 million yen, which Yamagami has said during investigations financially ruined his family.

He has also told investigators that he targeted Abe due to perceived connections between the Unification Church and Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi.

According to his lawyers, Yamagami has shown interest in the government’s decision to seek a court order to dissolve the Unification Church, which, if issued, is expected to lead to the South Korea-founded group losing its religious corporation status in Japan and deprive it of its tax benefits.

But his lawyers did not disclose details of the exchanges.