Hugely popular idol group AKB48 was founded on the premise of “idols you can meet” and over the years they’ve stuck to it, hosting numerous handshake and meet-and-greet events on top of their live shows and performances at their own special theatre. Sadly, that open, accommodating fan policy was jeopardised last year when two members of the group were viciously attacked at a handshake event by a crazed “fan” wielding a hand saw.

Luckily, the girls weren’t too seriously injured, but the incident shook the entertainment industry and led to increased security measures being implemented at celebrity events, and it was reported yesterday that the individual responsible for the attack has been sentenced to six years in prison.

Satoru Umeta, who was 24 at the time of the crime, was sentenced on Tuesday by Iwate Prefecture’s Morioka District Court to a period of six years in prison for his attack on AKB48 members Rina Kawaei and Anna Iriyama (both 19) as well as one of their event staff. The attack, which occurred at a handshake event in Iwate Prefecture on May 25, 2014, caused great concern among AKB48’s loyal fans as well as members of the public, whose confidence in these public events has been shaken.

The judge presiding over the case, Takehiko Okada, is reported to have said that Umeta’s actions were “cruel and very hazardous, which could have taken people’s lives… the fear the victims had during the event, where they were meeting with fans, and the mental damage were significant”. Umeta’s lawyer is reported to have argued that his client suffered from mental health problems including possible schizophrenia and was experiencing frustration at the time due to his poor communicative skills, which led him to lash out at the event.

Despite the appeals, Umeta’s crime was handled as a case of attempted murder.

The eventual sentence of six years is close to the prosecution’s requested sentence of seven, and AKB48’s fans will be glad to know that the attacker is now behind bars (and hopefully receiving the proper care for his mental health issues). Hopefully the victims of the incident will now be able to move forward as well.

Source: Japan Today/AFP
Image: Flickr © Dick Thomas Johnson