Arsonist is shown list of victims’ names at first court hearing, but start of trial is likely still far away.

Two weeks ago the arsonist in the attack on anime studio Kyoto Animation, 42-year-old Shinji Aoba, was finally placed under arrest following a lengthy delay while he recovered from burns he himself sustained as well as complications related to coronavirus infection at candidate prisons. This week, Aoba appeared in court for the first time.

On Tuesday afternoon Aoba, who is still bedridden, was wheeled into a Kyoto district court courtroom on a stretcher. A judge asked him to state his name, which he did, the only time Aoba spoke during the 30-minute court session. He was also shown a list of the names of the 70 Kyoto Animation employees who were inside the studio when he set it ablaze, 36 of whom died on-site or in the hospital following the fire. Aoba, who reacted with mild surprise when he recently learned of how many lost their lives as a result of his actions, looked at the paper in silence for more than a minute.

The purpose of the hearing was for the court to officially state its rationale for keeping Aoba in confinement ahead of his trial. The presiding judge said “In light of the circumstances of this case, and the emotional state of the suspect, there is a chance of a third party destroying evidence, or assisting the suspect in going fugitive.”

However, Aoba’s defense attorney argued that his detainment is unnecessary. “More than 10 months have passed since the incident took place, and the police have already gathered the evidence. Furthermore, I do not believe [Aoba] has any friends or family members who would be willing to help him escape.”

During the proceedings, Aoba made no comments and was almost entirely motionless. Lying prone in the stretcher and facing the ceiling with a mask covering his face and severe burns covering what skin was exposed, he remained silent and only occasionally moved his head.

Ultimately, the question of whether Aoba is a flight risk or not was rendered moot, as investigators also asked that he be detained for the purpose of expert psychiatric analysis, in order to determine his mental state and degree of legal culpability. The court granted the request for a period of three months, after which investigators will decide on what specific charges, or lack thereof, to bring against Aoba, meaning that his trial would begin no earlier than the fall.

Source: NHK News Web via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/Wikipedia/L26
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