• Kyodo

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A 17-year-old youth accused of hijacking a bus May 3-4 and killing one passenger was transferred Wednesday from the Hiroshima Juvenile Classification Home to Saga Juvenile Classification Home in Saga Prefecture.

The transfer followed a decision made Tuesday by the Hiroshima Family Court to send his case to the Saga Family Court.

The Hiroshima court said the Saga court would be in a better position to handle the case because the youth is from Saga and the details of his life there must be scrutinized.

Meanwhile, the Saga Family Court decided Wednesday that Judge Katsuki Nagatome will preside over the case and appointed five court investigators to conduct a detailed study of the boy’s psychological state and physical condition, court officials said.

The team is as large as the one that investigated the case of the 14-year-old serial killer in Kobe in 1997, the officials said.

The Saga court is expected to conduct a comprehensive psychiatric examination of the boy to determine his competency.

The Hiroshima court said the results of the psychiatric exam will be central to the trial, because investigators said earlier that the responses the youth gave during simple tests indicate he has a serious mental disorder.

Three lawyers from the Hiroshima Bar Association who had been serving as the teenager’s defense council at the Hiroshima court will carry on in that capacity with cooperation from lawyers of the Saga Bar Association.

The boy’s defense lawyers in Hiroshima had filed an appeal with the Hiroshima High Court on grounds that they would be unable to see the boy often if he were transferred to Saga.

The youth was arrested May 4 in Hiroshima after he allegedly commandeered a Fukuoka-bound bus from Saga on the afternoon of May 3.

He allegedly stabbed a 68-year-old woman to death and injured five other passengers, two of them seriously.

Officials from the national mental institution in Saga Prefecture, where the youth had been treated until the day before the alleged hijacking, told reporters Wednesday that the decision to let him visit his home was appropriate.

The head of the center and three other doctors told their first news conference since the incident that their decision to allow the youth to return home was appropriate, as it was made after he had undergone substantial psychiatric treatment.

The doctors said the boy was not suffering from any serious mental disorder, but refused to elaborate on their diagnosis of his condition to protect his privacy. His chief doctor was absent from the news conference.

A psychiatrist who conducted simple tests on the boy in Hiroshima Prefecture, where he was arrested on May 4, has suggested he could be suffering from schizophrenia if his answers to questions in the tests were truthful.

The doctors reiterated that the center had done its best in taking care of the boy and that he had undergone considerable treatment, including interviews with psychiatrists and confidence-building procedures with his chief doctor.

“The boy’s condition was good and we did not expect in making the decision that permission for his temporary release would cause any danger. We did not receive any complaint from his family either,” one of the doctors said.

They also said that a third-party body will eventually judge whether the center should be held responsible for the hijacking case.

The institution had previously refused to give any public explanation of its decision to briefly release the youth, citing a request from Hiroshima Prefectural Police not to do so.