Tetsuya Yamagami, who allegedly shot Abe in July with a homemade gun, will stand trial for murder and a gun charge, according to the Nara District Court. The charges come after a lengthy mental examination to determine whether Yamagami could be tried.
The date for the trial has not yet been set, but both a panel of civil jurors and bench judges are expected to preside over the courtroom. A conviction could lead to the death penalty, although experts say a life sentence is more likely, according to CBS News.
According to police, Yamagami has said that the killing was motivated by Abe’s alleged ties to the Unification Church. Yamagami disliked the church because of his mother’s large financial donations to it, and its influence on the public square is controversial in Japan.
Yamagami could also be hit with additional weapon and explosive charges, as well as charges relating to building damages.
Tomoaki Onizuka, the police chief of Nara, the city where Abe was assassinated, took responsibility for the security problems that allowed the popular leader to be killed.
“It is undeniable that there were problems with the security for former prime minister Abe, and we will immediately identify the problems and take appropriate measures to resolve them,” Onizuka said.
“After the first report of the incident came at 11:30 a.m., and the situation was revealed, it was the height of the guilt and regret I’ve felt in my 27 years in law enforcement,” he added. “I feel the weight of my responsibility.”
Abe was the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history and was widely praised by world leaders with whom he had worked during his tenure.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the nation had lost a “close friend.” Abe was vocal in recent years about the need to support Taiwan.
“Not only has the international community lost an important leader, but Taiwan has also lost an important and close friend. Taiwan and Japan are both democratic countries with the rule of law, and our government severely condemns violent and illegal acts,” Tsai stated.
President Joe Biden, as well as former President Donald Trump, both commented on the assassination.
“This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him. I had the privilege to work closely with Prime Minister Abe,” Biden said. “The longest serving Japanese Prime Minister, his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure. Above all, he cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service.”
Trump called the news “devastating” and said it was “a tremendous blow to the wonderful people of Japan, who loved and admired him so much.”