Japan Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Anime Studio Arson Suspect

Thu Dec 07 2023
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TOKYO: Prosecutors on Thursday sought the death penalty for a man accused of a 2019 arson attack on an anime studio that claimed 36 lives in Japan’s deadliest crime in decades, reports said.

Shinji Aoba, who nearly died from burns he sustained, has admitted to starting the fire at Kyoto Animation and faces five charges including murder, attempted murder, and arson.

He is accused of breaking into the building in July 2019, spreading gasoline around the ground floor and torching it before reportedly shouting “drop dead”.

Many of those killed in the arson at the famous studio were young staff members, including a 21-year-old woman, and more than thirty others were wounded.

Prosecutors on Thursday requested the prosecution saying Aoba planned the incident based on a strong intent to kill and was well aware of the dangers of gasoline and, according to public broadcaster NHK.

The prosecutors said that even when the victims fled, smoke followed them at high speed, and one can only imagine the sheer gruesome terror and sorrow they must have felt.

Prosecutors and the district court in the western city of Kyoto both declined to confirm the reports. A ruling is due on 25 January.

Public support for capital punishment in Japan

Japan is one of the few developed nations to retain the death penalty, and public support for capital punishment remains high despite global criticism.

The 45-year-old admitted starting the fire when the trial began in September, and later said he should pay for his crime with capital punishment.

Aoba, while apologizing for the first time, told the court on Wednesday that he felt tremendously sorry and the feeling included a sense of guilt.

Firefighters told journalists at the time that the blaze was “unprecedented” and that rescuing people and extinguishing the blaze was “extremely difficult”.

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