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Japan: Man sentenced to death over deadly amime studio fire

Firefighters said it had been extremely difficult to try to rescue people who were trapped inside the building

Firefighters said it had been extremely difficult to try to rescue people who were trapped inside the building

The Kyoto District Court on Thursday sentenced a man to death after finding him guilty of murder and other crimes in an arson attack that killed 36 people at an anime studio.

The 2019 blaze tore through the studios of Kyoto Animation and was Japan's deadliest crime in decades.

What we know about the crime

The convicted man, Shinji Aoba, who is now 45, broke into the building and spread gasoline on the ground floor before setting it alight and shouting "drop dead."

"The act of pouring an enormous amount of gasoline and setting it ablaze is extremely likely to be fatal, and immolating people is truly cruel and inhumane," presiding judge Keisuke Masuda in his ruling.

Victims "were engulfed in fire and smoke in the blink of an eye... They died an anguishing death as the studio instantly turned into a hell," Masuda said.

Aoba, who was arrested near the scene, suffered burns that covered 90% of his body in the blaze. He reportedly needed 12 operations.

Firefighters said it had been extremely difficult to try to rescue people who were trapped inside the building.

What the judge decided

Aoba's lawyers had entered a plea of not guilty, claiming he "did not have the capacity to distinguish between good and bad and to stop committing the crime due to a mental disorder."

However, the judge ruled that Aoba was "neither insane nor suffering diminished mental capacity at the time of the crime," and imposed the death penalty after deliberation.

Japan and the United States are the only two members of the Group of Seven industrialized economies that still have the death penalty.

A 2019 government study shows overwhelming public support for the practice, with some 80% of people seeing capital punishment as "unavoidable."

The same survey, which had more than 1,500 participants, found that just 9% were in favor of abolishing the death penalty.

rc/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)