Tetsuya Yamagami charged with murder of Japan's ex-PM Shinzo Abe

Yamagami, 42, was arrested immediately after fatal shooting during campaign speech in July

Tetsuya Yamagami is apprehended near the site of the fatal shooting of Shinzo Abe in Nara, western Japan. AP
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A man has been charged with murder by Japanese prosecutors after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a court said on Friday.

Tetsuya Yamagami was arrested immediately after Mr Abe was shot with a home-made gun as the former leader was making a campaign speech on July 8 outside a train station in Nara, western Japan.

Mr Yamagami will now stand trial for murder after a six-month mental evaluation, which prosecutors said showed he was fit to appear in court.

The 42 year old will also face a charge of violating gun laws, Nara district court said.

Police said Mr Yamagami told them he had killed Mr Abe, one of Japan’s most influential and divisive politicians, because of the latter’s apparent links to a religious group he hated.

Mr Yamagami said in statements and social media postings attributed to him that he his mother had made huge donations to the Unification Church, bankrupting his family.

Lawyer Masaaki Furukawa told AP on Thursday that Mr Yamagami will have to take responsibility for the serious consequences of his alleged actions but his defence lawyers would do their best to reduce his sentence.

Japanese law allows capital punishment for murder but experts told AP the death penalty was usually imposed for multiple killings.

No date has been set for the trial and Mr Furukawa said it could be months before it begins.

Allegations of producing weapons, breaching explosives control laws and causing damage to buildings could also be added to the list of charges.

The Unification Church was founded in South Korea in 1954 and is famous for its mass weddings.

It relies on its Japanese followers as a vital source of income.

The killing shed light on evidence to reveal deep and longstanding relations between the church and Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politicians.

The LDP has denied any organisational link to the church, but has acknowledged that many political figures have ties to the religious group.

The approval rate of current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government fell to record lows amid revelations about connections between the church and LDP members.

Updated: January 13, 2023, 9:19 AM