The death sentence was pronounced on Thursday, January 25, according to Japanese media, against Shinji Aoba, found guilty of causing the fire at an animation studio which left 36 dead in 2019. man, aged 45, was facing five charges, including murder, attempted murder and arson.

This fire, which occurred on July 18, 2019, in Kyoto (West), one of the crimes that caused the most victims in the Archipelago for decades, triggered a wave of emotion and indignation in Japan and the ‘stranger. Most of the victims were young employees of the Kyoto Animation studio, nicknamed “KyoAni,” including a 21-year-old woman. More than thirty other people were injured.

“I didn’t think so many people were going to die and I think now I’ve gone too far,” the accused said on the first day of his trial in September 2023. “I think I have to pay for my crime with [this sentence]”, he also estimated during another hearing in December, when he was questioned about the wish of the victims’ families to see him sentenced to death.

According to several accounts, he broke into the studio building and poured gasoline before setting it on fire, shouting: “You are going to die! » Firefighters described the fire as “unprecedented” and stressed that putting it out and rescuing those present had been “extremely difficult”.

“Delusional” allegations

Shinji Aoba wanted revenge against KyoAni because he believed the company had stolen a story idea from him, an allegation firmly rejected by the studio and which prosecutors called “delusional.”

The arsonist himself was seriously burned in the fire, and his injuries required multiple surgical operations. He appeared at his trial in a wheelchair.

His lawyers pleaded not guilty, arguing that he lacked “the ability to distinguish between right and wrong” due to psychiatric disorders. But, for prosecutors, the accused had “premeditated his act with strong murderous intent and he was perfectly aware of the dangers involved in a fire lit with gasoline”. The court ruled Thursday that Mr. Aoba “neither suffered from dementia nor suffered from a reduction in his mental capacity at the time of the crime,” NHK reported.

The pain of the victims’ families

“I should have (…) told [my daughter] not to go to work that morning,” the mother of Naomi Ishida, one of the victims, who was 49 years old, told the daily Mainichi this week. . “Even if he is sentenced to death, Naomi and the others will not return. I feel empty,” the woman added.

“Please give me back my daughter,” implored the mother of a victim who died in the KyoAni fire at the age of 26 and who spoke at the trial of Mr. Aoba in December. “I would like to go back to that day and die with her, to at least be by her side,” she added, quoted by public television channel NHK.

Along with the United States, Japan is one of the rare democracies to still practice the death penalty, which is applied by hanging. Japanese public opinion remains largely in favor, despite criticism abroad. The last execution in the country, where more than a hundred convicts are on death row, dates back to 2022.