Diet member’s killer gets life sentence

Doubts raised about rightwing extremist's motives for stabbing lawmaker

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The Tokyo District Court on Friday sentenced a rightwing extremist to life in prison for stabbing to death a House of Representatives member in 2002, calling the act a threat to democracy.

Hakusui Ito, 50, was convicted of stabbing Koki Ishii, 61, a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker, to death on Oct. 25, 2002, in front of Ishii’s house in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward.

Ito surrendered to police the next day and pleaded guilty at his trial.

Prosecutors had demanded a life term.

Presiding Judge Hiroshi Narikawa said in handing down the ruling: “The savagery of the accused, in which he took the life of a Diet member, deserves to be hugely criticized in a democratic state. His criminal responsibility is extremely grave.”

He said Ishii had energetically fought against dishonesty, such as collusion between the political community, bureaucracy and industrial circles.

Ito sat in his chair looking tough, as though nothing could harm him, as the judge read out the sentence.

Judge Narikawa dismissed Ito’s reasons given to investigators for killing the lawmaker as “absurd and groundless.”

Prosecutors said Ito was resentful that Ishii had become cold toward him, because Ito believed he had helped Ishii become an important politician. Ito also claimed that he had raised 27 million yen for Ishii early in his career. The court said it did not believe him.

“I regret the defendant’s real motives were not clarified because the accused only stated absurd motives, and the prosecutors in their investigation only tried to verify whether those absurd statements were true,” the judge said.

The judge also raised doubts about the prosecutors’ theory that Ito killed Ishii out of an unreasonable personal grudge against the lawmaker.

Given the situation, the judge said that the Ishii family’s belief that there must have been a plot behind the murder, involving more people and organizations was “very understandable,” although he did not elaborate.

Ito called himself the representative of Shukojuku, a one-man rightwing group that he began in 1985.

He began approaching Ishii in 1992, a year before the lawmaker was first elected to the Diet as a member of the now-defunct Japan New Party.

After Ishii joined the DPJ in 1996, Ito began hanging around his office, pressuring Ishii’s secretaries to buy sake and rightwing books from him.

Ito demanded money for what he called political advice and started receiving payments of between 20,000 yen to 50,000 yen from Ishii, under the guise of taxi money.

The judge said he believed Ishii could not refuse Ito’s demands. Politicians need to maintain good relations with all types of people, he said.

But Ito eventually became convinced that the Diet member had achieved his political success due to his advice, and when the politician began avoiding him, he felt resentful. Ito began considering murdering him after he rejected his request to help pay his rent in September 2002, the judge said.

An Ishii family member and family attorney told a news conference following the ruling that they were happy that the court suggested there may have been other motives for the killing besides those mentioned by Ito and the prosecutors. They asked the media to stir public interest in the case so that the truth behind Ishii’s death might come out.

“The judge’s ruling went beyond the prosecutors’ closing argument. The prosecutors ignored our claim that there must be something behind the (Ito’s) motive, but the judge today repeatedly said there remains some reasonable doubt about his motive,” the attorney said.

Natasha, Ishii’s 59-year-old Russian wife, said she is certain the death of her husband was part of a plot.

“The reason I say this is because shortly before his death, Ishii was telling me and some others that he was about to reveal a grave secret about (Prime Minister Junichiro) Koizumi’s Cabinet that would upset the nation. His words never leave my mind.

“Media people, please don’t settle this case as something that just went on between Ito and Ishii.”