Trial of Kyoto Animation arsonist set to begin 4 years after attack

The trial of a man accused of carrying out a deadly arson attack on a Kyoto Animation studio four years ago is set to begin on Tuesday.

The July 2019 attack on Kyoto Animation's studio in Kyoto City left 36 employees dead and 32 others injured. Aoba Shinji has been charged with murder and arson in what is the deadliest murder case since 1989, the year in which the earliest records are available.

It has taken four years for his trial to start because the suspect himself suffered serious burns and spent time in hospital recovering.

The focus of the trial, which opens at the Kyoto District Court at 10:30 a.m., is expected to be on whether the suspect had the capacity to make a correct judgement at the time.

Prosecutors argue he was mentally competent, citing the results of a psychiatric evaluation. The suspect's defense team will likely contend he was mentally incompetent and seek an acquittal or lesser sentence.

It remains to be seen what Aoba will say during the trial regarding his motive. The suspect told investigators he set fire to the Kyoto Animation studio because it plagiarized his novel. The studio says he had entered a writing competition but was eliminated in the screening stage. It says there are no similarities between Aoba's work and any of its releases.

Kyoto Animation President Hatta Hideaki said he feels grief over the deaths of employees and feels sorry for the hardship other workers endured. Hatta said he expects the court to rule appropriately in accordance with the law.