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Online petition demands lighter sentence for accused Abe assassin after 'tough upbringing'

Kei Saito, right, representative of a group demanding a reduced sentence for Tetsuya Yamagami, explains that the organization has collected over 10,000 online signatures during a press conference in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Jan. 13, 2023. (Mainichi/Koji Endo)

TOKYO -- An organization demanding a reduced sentence for Tetsuya Yamagami, who has been indicted for the murder of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said it sent a petition with 11,127 online signatures to prosecutors, asking that they consider Yamagami's upbringing and his mother's massive donations to the Unification Church in his trial.

    The group is headed by Kei Saito, a 58-year-old office worker who is a "second-generation follower" like 42-year-old Yamagami. Saito's parents belong to a religious group other than the Unification Church, formally the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. Her group has been calling for supporters through an online signature site since July 15, 2022, one week after Abe's assassination.

    In a Jan. 13 press conference in Tokyo, the group revealed it had collected 11,127 signatures by Jan. 10, and mailed them to the Nara District Public Prosecutors Office and the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office on Jan. 12. The number of signatures had increased to 13,158 by Jan. 17.

    Saito commented, "Yamagami's mother went bankrupt due to donations of over 100 million yen (approx. $780,000), his older brother killed himself, and he had an extremely tough upbringing. In spite of being in such an environment, after growing up, he acquired various licenses and lived while working hard, and there is room for rehabilitation."

    (Japanese original by Tomonori Matsuo, Tokyo City News Department)

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