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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Hiro Komae via PA The vehicle, left, carrying the body of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves Zojoji temple after his funeral in Tokyo.

Japan mourns as funeral for former PM Abe held in Tokyo

Abe was shot at close range on Friday while giving a campaign speech in the city of Nara.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS of assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe gathered at a Tokyo temple today for a private funeral, as mourners outside condemned the leader’s “despicable” murder.

Abe was shot at close range on Friday while giving a campaign speech in the city of Nara, days ahead of upper house elections that saw his ruling party strengthen its hold on power.

The murder suspect, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, is in custody and has told police he targeted Abe because he believed the politician was linked to an organisation he resented.

Although the funeral rites were for family members and close associates only, long lines of people, some dressed in black, came to the Zojoji temple to pay respects to Japan’s longest-serving prime minister.

“I can’t get over my sadness, so I came here to lay flowers and say a prayer,” consultant Tsukasa Yokawa, 41, told AFP, describing Abe as “a great prime minister who did a lot to elevate Japan’s presence” on the global stage.

“It’s despicable,” said Yuko Takehisa, a 51-year-old assistant nurse who lives in Kanagawa, near Tokyo.

“More could have been done to prevent it,” she said, complaining that “no one reported” Yamagami to police despite reports he had test-fired a handmade gun before the attack.

Satoshi Ninoyu, the chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, a cabinet position overseeing national police, pledged to hold a full review of any security failings.

Local police have already admitted flaws in their guarding programme for the high-profile politician, who was approached from behind and shot in broad daylight.

Police searches of the suspect’s home have found pellets and other possible components for building a gun like the crude weapon used in the attack, Japanese media reported Tuesday, citing unnamed investigative sources.

Yamagami spent three years in Japan’s navy and reportedly told investigators that his mother’s large donations to a religious organisation had caused the family financial troubles.

The Unification Church, a global religious movement founded in Korea in the 1950s, said on that Yamagami’s mother was a member, but did not comment on any donations she may have made.

Abe’s murder sparked shock and outrage in Japan and worldwide, and an outpouring of condolence messages.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said that over 1,700 condolence messages had been received from 259 countries, territories and international bodies.

After today’s funeral, Abe’s body will be driven past some of Tokyo’s political landmarks, including the prime minister’s residence — known as the Kantei — and the country’s parliament, the Diet.

 © AFP 2022

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