Man in Japan charged with murder, arson for Kyoto Animation fire

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Shinji Aoba, 42, was charged with homicide and arson by Japan's prosecution Wednesday, after the fire at Kyoto Animation studio that killed 36 people in 2019. File Photo by Jiji Japan/EPA-EFE

A Japanese man who set fire to an animation studio in Kyoto, killing 36, was formally accused of murder and arson 17 months after the attack on Kyoto Animation studio.

Shinji Aoba, 42, was charged with homicide, arson, breaking and entering, and violating Japan’s firearms law, Kyodo News and NHK reported Wednesday.

On July 18, 2019,

Aoba attacked the studio and was badly burnt after settling the studio on fire with gasoline.

“I thought I could kill many people by using gasoline,” Aoba had said, according to police. The suspect also said he “believed there were only about two [victims].” In addition to 36 deaths, the fire injured 33 people.

Aoba has accused the studio of stealing his novel. According to Kyodo, Kyoto Animation held competitions for draft novels. Winners would have their works turned into animation films, the company said.

The studio, known for animations “K-On!” and the “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” has rejected claims any of its animations were based on Aoba’s work, however.

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The Kyoto Public Prosecutors Office kept Aoba in confinement for six months for a psychological evaluation, according to NHK.

Local reports suggest the suspect is competent to stand trial. Aoba’s actions, including the premeditated attack and his ability to purchase gasoline, could mean he is criminally liable, despite a history of mental illness, according to Kyodo. Aoba also allegedly shouted, “Die!” as he set the studio on fire.

Medical experts examined Aoba from June 9 to Dec. 11. The pending trial is to focus on the suspect’s criminal liability.

Aoba sustained life-threatening burns. Police delayed serving him an arrest warrant until May because of injuries. He currently remains under arrest at Osaka Detention House, is bedridden and needs care daily, according to reports.

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