March 16, 2020 / 6:01 AM / in 17 days

Japanese man accused of killing 19 disabled people sentenced to death

YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) - A Japanese man was sentenced to death on Monday for killing 19 disabled people in a knife-wielding rampage in 2016 that was one of post-war Japan’s worst mass killings.

FILE PHOTO : Satoshi Uematsu, suspected of a deadly attack at a facility for the disabled, is seen inside a police car as he is taken to prosecutors, at Tsukui police station in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 27, 2016. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS/File Photo

Satoshi Uematsu, 30, had admitted to stabbing to death or injuring the victims at a care centre for people with mental disabilities where he had once worked in Sagamihara, southwest of Tokyo. Twenty-six others were wounded. Many of the victims were stabbed as they slept.

The carnage sent a shockwave through the nation, where violent crime is rare due to strict gun control.

Uematsu told a court session last month that those incapable of communicating with others are a burden to society and killing them would be good for society, according to domestic media.

Sentencing Uematsu to death by hanging, presiding judge Kiyoshi Aonuma cited the violence of the crime.

“This crime was pre-meditated and there was strong evidence of the desire to kill,” Aonuma told a courtroom filled with family members of the victims.

“The maliciousness of this was extreme.”

Uematsu, dressed in a black suit and with his long hair tied back in a ponytail, sat looking calmly at the judge during the court session. He said during a trial session last month that he had no intention of appealing, no matter what the verdict, domestic media reported.

His defence argued at the start of the trial in January that Uematsu was mentally incompetent or had diminished capacity at the time of the incident due to marijuana use. But prosecutors said he could be held fully responsible for his act, a view the judge upheld.

People with disabilities, especially mental disabilities, can still suffer stigma and shame in Japan, and the names of most of the victims were not made public according to the wishes of their families.

“It’s been a really tough three years and eight months,” said Takashi Ono, whose son was wounded in the attack, at a news conference.

“I want to keep working to make the situation better for those with disabilities and to create a world where families of those with heavy mental disabilities can feel a little relief.”

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, writing by Elaine Lies; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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