TOKYO (AP) — Japanese prosecutors are expected to file formal murder charges Friday against the suspect in the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his lawyer said.

Tetsuya Yamagami was immediately arrested after allegedly shooting Abe with a handgun as the former leader was delivering a campaign speech in July outside a train station in Nara, western Japan. Later that month, Yamagami was sent to an Osaka detention center and received a five-month mental evaluation, which ended Tuesday.

Yamagami is now back in police custody in Nara after reportedly finding himself fit to stand trial.

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

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

Police say Yamagami told them he killed Abe, one of Japan’s most influential and divisive politicians, because of Abe’s apparent ties to a religious group he hated.File Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Furukawa said he and two other lawyers took turns visiting Yamagami in the detention center every 10 to 12 days, between his examination by psychiatric experts. Visitors to her were limited to her attorneys and her sister, he said.

Furukawa said Yamagami was in good health at the detention center. He said he could not reveal the details of his conversations before seeing what evidence prosecutors present in court on his indictment.

Police say Yamagami told them 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 social media posts attributed to him, Yamagami said he developed a grudge because his mother had made massive donations to the Unification Church that bankrupted his family and ruined the life of him

“It is an extremely serious case, but someone has to defend it,” Furukawa said. «Naturally, he will have to bear criminal responsibility for the serious consequences he caused by allegedly firing his weapon to take the life of a politician, and we are tasked with doing everything we can to reduce his punishment.»

Yamagami’s father, an executive at 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 dashed their hopes of going to Yamagami University. His brother later committed suicide. After a three-year stint in the navy, Yamagami was recently a factory worker.

Some Japanese have expressed sympathy for Yamagami, especially those who also suffered as children of followers of the South Korean-based Unification Church, which is known for pressuring its adherents to make large donations and is considered a cult in Japan. .

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for clemency for Yamagami, and others have sent relief packages to relatives or the detention center.

The investigation into the case has led to revelations of years of close 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 1980s. of 1960 by shared interests in conservatives and anti. -Communist causes.

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

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

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