Japan executes man after 2008 stabbing rampage | News on the death penalty


Tomohiro Kato has been found guilty of murdering seven people in an attack on Tokyo’s popular Akihabara district.

Japan has executed a man convicted of killing seven people in a stabbing attack in Tokyo’s popular electronics district of Akihabara in 2008.

Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said Tomohiro Kato undertook “meticulous preparation” for the attack and showed “strong intent” to kill.

“The death sentence in this case has been finalized after sufficient deliberation in court,” he told reporters.

“Based on this fact, I approved the execution after extremely thorough consideration.”

The June 2008 attack, which also injured 10 people, began with Kato driving a truck into a crowd. After stabbing several people, the then 25-year-old man was arrested at the scene, telling police, “I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn’t matter who I killed.

Police said he documented his trip to Akihabara on internet bulletin boards, typing messages on a cellphone from behind the wheel of the truck and complaining about his unstable job and loneliness.

Japan’s top court upheld Kato’s death sentence in 2015, saying there were “no grounds for leniency”. The attack was the country’s worst mass shooting in seven years.

Tomohiro Kato was arrested at the scene. He drove a truck into pedestrians before going on a stabbing spree [File: Jiji Press via AFP]

The son of a banker, Kato grew up in Aomori prefecture in northern Japan, where he graduated from high school. He failed his college entrance exams and eventually trained as an auto mechanic, according to reports.

Prosecutors said Kato’s self-confidence plummeted after a woman he had been chatting with online abruptly stopped emailing him after he sent her a picture of himself.

His anger with the general public grew when his online comments, including his plans to kill, elicited no response, prosecutors said.

While awaiting trial, Kato wrote to a 56-year-old taxi driver he injured in the series of stabbings, expressing remorse.

The victims “enjoyed their lives and had dreams, a bright future, warm families, lovers, friends and colleagues,” Kato wrote according to a copy published in the weekly Shukan Asahi.

Kato’s execution is the first in Japan this year and comes after three prisoners were hanged in December 2021. These are the first executions in the country in two years.

The application of the death penalty in Japan is shrouded in secrecy. According to Amnesty International, those sentenced to death may not know that the sentence will be carried out until a few hours before or sometimes not at all, while their families are generally not informed until afterwards.

Amnesty, which opposes the death penalty in all cases, says that the general trend in the world remains towards the abolition of capital punishment.


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