Violence Can Never Be Tolerated, No Matter What the Reason

In broad daylight, a politician giving a speech during an election campaign was shot, leaving deep scars in democratic society. Whatever the reason, any attempt to change society through violence is unforgivable.

In the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Nara District Public Prosecutors Office has indicted Tetsuya Yamagami on charges including murder. On the morning of July 8, 2022, Yamagami allegedly shot and killed Abe with a homemade gun when Abe was giving a stump speech in Nara to support a candidate running in the House of Councillors election.

After the shooting, prosecutors had Yamagami undergo psychiatric evaluation by doctors to determine whether he was mentally competent to be held criminally liable. As a result of the evaluation, the prosecutors judged Yamagami fit to stand trial.

Yamagami allegedly prepared guns and explosives in advance and checked Abe’s schedule of speeches on the internet shortly before the shooting. The important points the prosecutors likely considered were that the crime appears to have been premeditated, and that there were indications of a strong intent to kill.

During the investigation, Yamagami said he held a grudge against the Unification Church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, to which his mother had donated large sums of money. He was quoted as saying by police that he targeted Abe because he believed the former prime minister was connected to the religious group.

The trial will likely focus not only on Yamagami’s state of mind at the time of the alleged criminal act, but also such elements as the circumstances surrounding his attempt to settle his grudge against the Unification Church by shooting Abe. The hope is that the court will make its judgment rigorously based on the grave consequences brought about by the alleged criminal act and the background of the case.

The fatal shooting has shed light on the serious damage stemming from large donations being made to the Unification Church by followers, thus impoverishing their respective families.

The government has exercised its right to ask questions under the Religious Corporations Law to demand that the Unification Church report on the group’s actual state of affairs and financial situation. A new law has also come into force to prohibit unscrupulous solicitations of donations by corporations and organizations.

If the Unification Church is found to be engaged in problematic activities, the government must take strict action against the group.

Some people have expressed sympathy for Yamagami’s circumstances, with cash totaling more than ¥1 million as well as books and clothing having reportedly been sent to him. There have also been online posts describing him as a hero who has revealed the problems relating to the religious group.

No matter what the circumstances, however, taking someone’s life to achieve one’s own ends is wholly unacceptable. The tendency among a few people to justify criminal acts is extremely dangerous.

The shooting has also posed a challenge to the provision of security for dignitaries, prompting an overhaul to enhance the protection system. This year, unified local elections and the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima are scheduled to take place. It is hoped that police will draw on the stern lessons of the shooting and take all possible preparatory measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 14, 2023)