Kyoto Animation arson, murder trial begins

The man accused of staging a deadly arson attack on an animation studio in Kyoto City has confirmed the charges against him in the first session of his trial. But his lawyers entered a not-guilty plea and are contesting his legal responsibility.

The July 2019 attack on the Kyoto Animation studio left 36 employees dead and 32 others injured. It was the deadliest murder case since 1989, the earliest year for which records are available.

Aoba Shinji is accused of pouring gasoline into the studio and starting the inferno. He faces multiple charges, including murder and arson. The case has taken four years to come to trial as the defendant suffered serious burns during the attack.

The trial, which involves lay judges, began at the Kyoto District Court on Tuesday. The 45-year-old defendant, wearing a face mask, entered the courtroom in a wheelchair.

Aoba confirmed the facts laid out in the indictment. He added that he did not think so many people would die.

The lawyers said that due to a mental disorder, the defendant could not tell right from wrong at the time of the crime, and was unable to stop himself from staging the attack.

Prosecutors refuted the argument, saying Aoba was fully capable of being held criminally responsible.

In their opening statement, prosecutors referred to Aoba's claim that his idea for a novel was stolen by the animation studio. They said that although it may be true that the defendant was delusional at the time, they will prove that the crime was committed not because of any delusion, but as a result of a misguided grudge against the studio.

The court is due to hear from doctors who have evaluated the defendant's mental state.

Attention is also focused on what Aoba will have to say about the background of the case and the motive for the attack.