Shinzo Abe funeral: Japan holds state funeral for ex-Prime Minister after assassination - who shot him?
The controversial state funeral has been met with protests and even lawsuits in a bid to cancel the event
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Abe died after being shot whilst giving a speech in the city of Nara, which is situated just to the east of Osaka on the country’s main Honshu island.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister who stepped down from his position in 2020 due to a flare up in a chronic health condition.
“His global leadership through unchartered times will be remembered by many. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the Japanese people.
“The UK stands with you at this dark and sad time.”
What happened to Shinzo Abe?
Abe was shot a few minutes after he started talking outside of a main train station in western Nara.
He had been giving a speech when people heard gunshots. Abe was shot on the left side of his chest and also in the neck according to local media reports.
He was seen holding his chest when he collapsed, his shirt smeared with blood, but was able to speak before he fell unconscious.
Speaking to Reuters, businessman Makoto Ichikawa, who was at the scene, said: “There was a loud bang and then smoke.
“The first show, no one knew what was going on, but after the second shot, what looked like special police tackled him.”
Following the attack, Abe was airlifted to hospital, however local fire service official Makoto Morimoto said the 67-year-old was not breathing and his heart had stopped while being airlifted to hospital.
The attack came as a huge shock in a country that is one of the world’s safest and with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.
What did Fumio Kishida say?
Current Japanese leader Fumio Kishida originally told reporters that Abe was in “severe condition” after being shot at the campaign event.
Kishida, who belongs to the same political party as Abe, returned to Tokyo from a campaign trip after the shooting.
“I’m praying for former prime minister Abe’s survival, from the bottom of my heart,” he said, prior to the news of the ex Prime Minister’s death.
Kishida called the attack “dastardly and barbaric”, and said that it was “absolutely unforgivable” that the crime had taken place during the election campaign – the foundation of democracy.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters: “A barbaric act like this is absolutely unforgivable, no matter what the reasons are, and we condemn it strongly.”
Was a suspect arrested?
According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, police arrested a male suspected in connection to the shooting of Abe.
Security officials were seen tackling a man in a grey t-shirt and beige trousers after the two shots were fired.
He has been named as Tetsuya Yamagami, a 42-year-old man from Nara. Fuji TV reported that he was a member of the maritime self-defence force, which he reportedly left in 2005.
NHK reported that the suspect told officers that he was unhappy with Abe and that he intended to kill him, however according to Kyodo News, he had not been motivated by a grudge against Abe’s political beliefs.
Media reports have quoted police officials as saying that the weapon used to attack Abe appeared to have been homemade.
Yamagami has been detained for mental evaluation, and will continue to be held until late November.
How did world leaders react to the shooting?
Across the globe world leaders and politicians condemned the attack, with many offering Abe’s family and the people of Japan their condolences.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Deeply distressed by the attack on my dear friend Abe Shinzo. Our thoughts are prayers are with him, his family, and the people of Japan.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that she was “deeply shocked” by the news.
She said: “He was one of the first leaders I formally met when I became Prime Minister. He was deeply committed to his role, and also generous and kind.
“I recall him asking after the recent loss of our pet when I met him, a small gesture but one that speaks to the kind of person he is.
“My thoughts are with his wife and the people of Japan. Events like this shake us all to the core.”
Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas also wrote: “I am shocked and saddened to hear about the shooting of Abe Shinzo. Such violence is also an attack against the very idea of democracy. Our thoughts are with you, your loved ones and all the people of @japan.”
When is the funeral?
The state funeral for Abe is being held today, Tuesday 27 September. Tokyo is under maximum security, with angry protests opposing the funeral planned around the capital and nation. Hours before the ceremony began, dozens of people carrying bouquets of flowers queued at public flower-laying stands at nearby Kudanzaka Park.
Thousands of uniformed police mobilised around the Budokan hall, where the funeral is being held, and at major train stations. Roads around the venue are closed throughout the day, and coin lockers at main stations were sealed for security. World leaders, including US Vice President Kamala Harris, were in town for the funeral.
Opponents of the state-sponsored funeral, which has its roots in pre-war imperial ceremonies, say taxpayers’ money should be spent on more meaningful causes, such as addressing widening economic disparities caused by Abe’s policies.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has also been criticised for forcing through the costly event to honour his mentor, who was assassinated in July.
There has also been a widening controversy about Abe’s and the governing party’s decades-long close ties with the ultra-conservative Unification Church, accused of raking in huge donations by brainwashing adherents.
Abe’s alleged assassin reportedly told police he killed the politician because of his links to the church; he said his mother ruined his life by giving away the family’s money to the church.
Kishida says the longest-serving leader in Japan’s modern political history deserves a state funeral. The government also maintains that the ceremony is not meant to force anyone to honour Abe. Most of the nation’s 47 prefectural governments, however, plan to fly national flags at half-staff and observe a moment of silence.
Opponents say Kishida’s one-sided decision, which was made without parliamentary approval, was undemocratic, and a reminder of how pre-war imperialist governments used state funerals to fan nationalism.
The pre-war funeral law was abolished after the Second World War. The only post-war state funeral for a political leader, for Shigeru Yoshida in 1967, also faced similar criticism.
“Spending our valuable tax money on a state funeral with no legal basis is an act that tramples on the constitution,” organiser Takakage Fujita said at a protest on Monday.
About 1.7 billion yen (£11 million) is needed for the venue, security, transportation and accommodation for the guests, the government said.
A group of lawyers have filed a number of lawsuits in courts around the country to try to stop the funeral. An elderly man last week set himself on fire near the prime minister’s office in an apparent protest of the funeral.
About 4,300 people, including Japanese lawmakers and foreign and local dignitaries, are attending the funeral.
Japanese troops will line the streets around the venue, and 20 of them will act as honour guards outside of Mr Abe’s home as his family leaves for the funeral. There will then be a 19-volley salute.
The ceremony began when Abe’s widow, Akie Abe, entered the hall carrying an urn containing her husband’s ashes, placed in a wooden box and wrapped in white cloth. The former leader was cremated after a private funeral at a Tokyo temple days after his death.
Government, parliamentary and judicial representatives, including Kishida, will make condolence speeches, followed by Mrs Abe.
The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party are boycotting the funeral, along with others.