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Family discloses name of victim in 2016 massacre at Japan care home

Miho is pictured here about three months before she was killed. She would have celebrated her coming-of-age the following year. (Photo courtesy of Miho's family)
Miho is pictured here at aged 8, lying down on her father's lap. (Photo courtesy of Miho's family)

YOKOHAMA -- The mother of a victim in a July 2016 massacre at a care home in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Sagamihara for mentally disabled people released her late daughter's name on Jan. 8 -- the same day that the man accused of the mass murder stood trial for the first time.

The woman's 19-year-old daughter, Miho, was a resident at Tsukui Yamayuri En (Tsukui Lily Garden) care facility when Satoshi Uematsu, a former care worker there, who has been indicted for murder and other charges, allegedly went on a rampage. At the lay judge trial that began the same day, the Yokohama District Court had decided it would refer to victims not by their names, but by symbols such as "A" and "B." Miho's mother felt uncomfortable with this method, and decided to go public with her daughter's name.

Miho's mother told the Mainichi Shimbun that her reason for disclosing her daughter's name was because "she has a name." In a statement also released on the same day, she wrote that Miho was her "pride," and that "Miho was living her life to her fullest," and that she wanted to leave a testament of that. She wrote, "I want people to remember Miho's name."

After the mass murder in 2016, Kanagawa Prefectural Police cited "strong requests from bereaved family members" as the reason they were taking the rare step of not releasing the names of the deceased. Therefore, even though 19 residents were killed and 26 were injured at Tsukui Yamayuri En, only several victims' names were made public, in cases in which their families agreed to disclosure in interviews with the press.

In response to the Mainichi interview, Miho's mother expressed understanding toward the prefectural police's decision not to release the names of the victims. "Due to the shock and sadness of having lost my daughter, I was unable to speak," she said. "But I was proud to take Miho anywhere. I wasn't keeping her name from being released because I was embarrassed of her disability."

Even though this is a criminal case, in which the use of real names is the norm, the Yokohama District Court decided to keep the victims anonymous. It is believed this step was taken based on a system that maintains the anonymity not only of victims of sexual crimes, but also the victims of cases that have the possibility of significantly undermining the honor and tranquil social life of the victim or the bereaved family. Those connected to the case who will take the stand using the victim participation system will be obstructed from view from the gallery by a partition.

After Uematsu admitted to the charges in the trial that began Jan. 8, his defense lawyers argued that he was not mentally competent to take responsibility for the crimes.

Uematsu has made discriminatory remarks such as "people with disabilities create unhappiness." Miho's mother wrote in her statement, "I hope that this country becomes one in which people with disabilities and their families can live calm lives without worry. A society in which people with disabilities can live at ease is truly a society in which people without disabilities can live happily."

(Japanese original by Shotaro Kinoshita, Yokohama Bureau, and Kazuhiko Hori, Political News Department)

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