Monday , August 15 2022

Suspect in Abe’s Killing Will Be Handed Over to Prosecutors on Sunday, Police Say

Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspect in the assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will be detained and questioned by the police in the city of Nara for another night, then transferred to the custody of the local prosecutors’ office, the police said on Saturday.

The police said little else about the case during a brief news conference in Nara, where Mr. Abe was killed on Friday. Under Japan’s criminal justice system, the police are allowed to interrogate suspects for two days before turning them over to prosecutors.

At the news conference, the police told reporters that Mr. Yamagami had taken a train one stop from his neighborhood to the location of the campaign rally where Mr. Abe was shot. They also said they had found multiple bullet holes in a vehicle used by the candidate for whom Mr. Abe was campaigning, but they did not elaborate.

For years, Japan’s criminal justice system has been criticized as unfairly slanted toward the prosecution, with critics pointing to a national conviction rate that exceeds 99 percent.

Once Mr. Yamagami is in their custody, prosecutors will have a day to determine whether to seek a detention order from a court, which they almost certainly will, said Charles D. Weisselberg, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law who directs a program studying U.S. and Japanese law.

At that point, prosecutors will have 10 days to question Mr. Yamagami. They can then apply for another order that would allow them to interrogate him for an additional 10 days.

In total, that means Mr. Yamagami can be detained and questioned for 23 days before being indicted. During interrogation, he is not entitled to have a lawyer present. Many critics of the system have said that it is geared toward forcing a suspect into confessing.

Japan’s Constitution states that people cannot be compelled to testify against themselves and that forced confessions are inadmissible in court. The country’s Ministry of Justice has said that it decided against letting lawyers be present during questioning because that “would make it difficult to discover the truth of the case due to the difficulty of obtaining sufficient statements from the suspects.”

The ministry also has said experts had warned that having lawyers present during interrogation would “not be supported by crime victims or the Japanese people, who strongly demand that the truth of a case be discovered.”

Satoru Shinomiya, a defense attorney and professor of law at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, said he expected prosecutors to take the maximum amount of time allowed under the law in this case, because Mr. Abe was a high-profile victim and they want to avoid making mistakes that could expose them to criticism.

Even in cases where the accused confesses to a crime, he said, prosecutors keep investigating to capture not only a full picture of the crime but of the life of the suspect.

Mr. Shinomiya added that he did not expect prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Mr. Yamagami, because Mr. Abe was the only victim and Japanese courts have been reluctant to impose the death penalty in such cases.


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