The Tokyo District Court on Thursday approved lawyers’ requests for a psychiatric examination of a 30-year-old man charged with hijacking an All Nippon Airways jumbo jet and stabbing its pilot to death in July 1999.
Lawyers for Yuji Nishizawa, an unemployed native of Tokyo, have argued that their client should not be held criminally responsible for the hijacking because he was mentally unfit at the time of the incident.
Nishizawa himself pleaded guilty to the charges at the first hearing of his trial in December 1999.
According to the indictment served against Nishizawa, he hijacked the Boeing 747 shortly after it took off from Tokyo’s Haneda airport on the morning of July 23, 1999.
He then fatally stabbed the captain, 51-year-old Naoyuki Nagashima, in the cockpit with a kitchen knife.
Nagashima was stabbed repeatedly after refusing to let Nishizawa take control of the plane, according to the indictment. No one else on the Sapporo-bound flight was hurt.
Lawyers said Nishizawa had previously been hospitalized at a mental institution to receive treatment for schizophrenia and depression. He had also repeatedly tried to commit suicide.
Prosecutors who carried out a simple psychiatric test on Nishizawa before indicting him in August 1999 concluded that he was mentally competent to be indicted, arguing he had been capable of planning the hijacking in detail.
Following the hijacking, Nishizawa reportedly told investigators that he was an avid fan of flight simulation games and that he wanted to fly the plane under the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay, which stands around 50 meters above the water, and to fly the plane in a loop.
After stabbing the captain, Nishizawa briefly piloted the aircraft, which had 503 passengers and 14 crew members on board.
With Nishizawa at the helm, the plane descended at one point to an altitude of around 300 meters.
He was finally subdued by crew members who burst into the cockpit, and an off-duty pilot who was on board took control of the plane.
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